Can Class Struggle and Identity Politics Be Reconciled?

Photo by Harrie van Veen | CC BY 2.0

American “progressives” are divided over the politics of class and identity – and this conundrum will likely go unresolved in time for the 2018 mid-term elections, let alone 2020.

Americans live their lives at the junction where class and identity cross.  “Identity” is generally recognized as political action based on a distinct social category, whether involving race, gender, religion, sexuality, disability, nationality or similar factors.  “Class” usually involves economic factors, including wealth, income, jobs, health-care and inequality.

The promise of postwar prosperity was known as the “American Dream,” a reward for all the hardship Americans endured during the preceding quarter century.  It signaled a new America, one defined by not only the most powerful military and economic force in the world but a nation celebrating the rewards of middle-class life being extended to all its people.  It represented an historical moment when the tensions between class and identity could be reconciled.

The 2016 presidential campaign made clear that the politics of the “establishment” Democrats don’t address the problems Americans face. The politics of mainstream Democrats – e.g., the Clintons, Chuck (make-a-deal) Schumer and Nancy (keep-it-civil) Pelosi – simply won’t work in the age of Trump, an age in which the most reactionary, racist and the 1 percent rule.

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