tv Discussion on Identity Politics CSPAN November 23, 2018 8:26am-8:55am EST
in this opioid epidemic in 2017. this is a lot of people. this is a really lot of people, more like twice as many as get killed in traffic accidents and there really has not been whole lot of attention paid to this until actually the 2016 election because this was happening to group of americans that were not being terribly well covered up till then. there are problems i think on both sides. >> to go back to this concept, i would probably mispronounce it, you're saying we need somehow to find a national narrative that is maybe embedded in-laws but articulate and various political narratives that speaks to people both sides of, because whatever the moral equivalence or lack of equivalence, you can a functioning society unless you're above a functioning democratic liberal democratic
society of usher about some minimum threshold of members of that society feeling as though they're they are being seen and respected as human beings. >> that's right. it's all about pride. one of the things i think political scientists now recognize a lot of their empirical research is people do not vote rationally. they just don't vote rationally. they vote based on the partisan affiliations and the partisan affiliations are driven by since the community, a sense of pride in a certain membership, and a certain identity. and so it's all quite irrational. i think politicians that simply speak to peoples economic interests or a kind of rational calculation as to what policy should benefit them don't understand that if you don't appeal to the pride as well you are not going to get them to vote for you. that's something that needs to be carefully cultivated. unfortunately i think donald trump was actually quite
brilliant and sing there's a large group of americans kind of white working-class americans who felt that the pride had been hurt by policies from the past. but that doesn't mean that you can't come up with a different kind of narrative that we've much more inclusive than the one that he is trying to tell that would appeal to americans pride because if you think there is that progressive historical story that still can be told about the united states in 2018. >> so maybe the last question and then we can go to the audience, so folks want to start lining up behind the microphone up there to one of the things i thought was nice in the book was you don't just kind of diagnose the problem and then leave this kind of depressed, you know, convinced we're all doomed. you actually spent some time talking about, which i think is appropriate you don't get too detailed but you spent some time
talking about what kinds of measures you think could bring us back towards a national identity that sustained us. could you talk a lot bit of that what you think some of that might look like? >> first of all, i actually think leadership matters and i think we underestimate the degree to which these narratives about national identity can actually be shaped by the right kind of politician. i think that unfortunately we've not had a politicians actually articulated this kind of sense of creedal identity i'm talking about in a way that is been terribly appealing, but that doesn't mean you couldn't do that. citizenship should mean certain things, and so the one thing you can do is to begin talking about it. in the education system we don't actually teach civics anymore. if you look at poll data, the number of high school students to graduate from american high
schools that can identify one of the ten, the original bill of rights, peck identify the three branches of government, it's appalling help people affected our own political system. that's something we could do a much better job about, and if they understood the constitution properly, maybe they would recognize its something have to defend in an age when i think it is really being under attack. the other big area is immigration. this gets to a lot of sensitive issues, but it seems to me that there are things that, you know, i real policy solution to the current immigration deadlock has been on the table for the last 20 years. it's just that i think activists on both the left and the right have prevented it from coming about. and i think it is essential if a trade-off that you basically have to provide the undocumented
immigrants that are in this country and a been living here peacefully and don't have criminal records. you have to provide them a route to citizenship. there's just no alternative to that, but the trade-off for that is you actually have to take seriously -- [applause] >> we will see the ticket claps on the next part. >> weight for the other side. [laughing] the other side of that deal, is you actually have to take enforcement seriously in the future. there are a lot of people on the left that simply don't think it's an important issue, and actually i think that the democrats themselves, that is one of their big weaknesses is that they have not been, they have not articulated i think a sustainable position on this question. i don't think that you can really even have a democracy if you cannot define who the people are.
and that means clear rules for citizenship and how you get citizenship and who gets a right to vote and it does mean control over your borders as you look forward. so that's been the trade in every comprehensive immigration bill going back to the 1986 reform. we cannot get to it because activists on both sides on the right, you get this big group of people that is dead set against what the call amnesty and on the left there are a lot of people there but don't want strong enforcement measures. i think that's really the only way to ultimately solve this problem. and by the way, if you could solve it, it takes away this huge cultural stick that people like trial have an using to batter more progressive candidates and that i think is an important thing we have to accomplish. >> and i suppose depressing to think maybe the reason why they
are not agreeing to that kind of grand bargain is precisely because he didn't want to let go of that stick. let's go to the audience. make sure you're close to the mic so we can hear your. >> speaking about this whole narrative process and just wondering, i've seen of both the right and the left the various activities of people attending to steer the narrative and politics and otherwise using fear and i really affected using fear, whether it's based in truth or not, and how we break that cycle or get past it took it seems to be leading both sides with every crusade. >> so i think it depends on the sources of fear, but usually a few times on some kind of social injustice, right? if it's the fear of police violence or the fear of sexual assault, these are all issues that have very specific ways of
being addressed. if you do need to be addressed by policy. i think that, however national identity and democratic politics cannot simply be based around fears and their mitigation, they also have to be based on hope in a certain sense. i think it's that help that's a positive agenda that we really haven't been addressing. i mean, obama talk about anything that's actually why a lot of white working-class people voted for and of why he was elected twice but it's kind of disappeared from the narrative of a lot of politicians. some combination of real policy efforts to address these real injustices combine with an attention to integrated identities that will actually bring people back together. i think that's the right
combination. it's not an either or choice. i think we could do both those at the same time. >> first of all i'd like to push back on the fact that the idea that donald trump is a genius. that's not a new, the southern strategy is not a new playbook and that's what it is bit . but anyways, specifically addressing something you said about syria and iraq and does other things, how can a national identity event in the nation that is funnily funny really sy imperial powers? >> i did called donald trump a genius across the board. [laughing] i mean come he's obviously are ignorant of policy and not thoughtful and so forth, but he does have this very intuitive sense of what a certain social sector in the united states feels and thinks. and he intuited that in a way that other politicians did not so that's the sense in which i was saying he had a very good political instinct which i do i
think he continues to exhibit and so i think if you're a democrat you ought to be a little bit careful about underestimating that. but the question, so of course, these nations were set up by imperial powers, but just like in sub-saharan africa, if this region were actually allowed to organize itself based on sort of indigenous social forms, you wouldn't have states at all. you would have tribes, ethnic groups, a lot of social units that were really not viable in any kind of modern international order, with some exceptions, iran, egypt, turkey. these are actual real nationstates but the others really are not. they don't have much choice. you're not going to get to any kind of stability unless you can actually create some form of
national identity. i was in iraq in late august, and there's been this ongoing struggle because part of the solution to this factionalism is to try to create some kind of sense of overarching iraqis identity, and there are some politicians that are trying to do that but others are perfectly happy to simply push the sectarian agenda of their particular communities. so you can what the alternative is there to having a national story, because we can't undo when hundred 50 years of colonial legacy in that world. you just can't undo it. as a practical policy going forward, you need something like national identity. >> so we should prop up dictators like moammar gadhafi? >> no. i think we should try to do what we've been trying to do in iraq and afghanistan is actually have nation based on democratic principles.
>> the first thing i want to say is on the immigration debate, malcolm gladwell podcast revisionist history has an interesting episode about pecos to the history of immigration basically he argues for less enforcement at the border as a solution, that when there was more enforcement that cause people to stay here in the trade and not being able to freely go back. anyway, the question i had the was about, so if you have like, so, for example, if you have the rights and the politicians on the right using, say, minorities struggles as a wedge issue, how do you think that these minorities should struggle to get more rights, more recognition? or are you saying that should they just kind of be quiet for a while? >> no.
no, i mean, i guess it really depends on the specific ways in which you articulate your agenda and the kind specific policy. so, for example, i really like the affordable care act, right? i think that was a great example of a general social policy. it had great benefits for african-americans as well as for rural whites who are not getting adequate access to health care. and i think that's the kind of, that's my idea of a well targeted, i mean, the fact is it's not targeted, or it is rather targeted against an economic group that doesn't have health insurance that includes people of different races, ethnicities and so forth. i think that by itself was one of the biggest things that was done for a lot of minority groups in this country who simply did not have good health care. i'm not opposed to specific
remedies database on gender or race or ethnicity in cases where that's clearly the source of the problem. but i do think, look, i mean, just to put this in plain political terms, i think that the democrats right now, and by the way, so i will say this quite unashamedly and i'm not saying this as as a partisan. i think they really, really have to take back the house at least in, on november 6 because i just don't think -- [applause] and by the way, i was a registered republican up until 2010. i just think our checks and balances are not going to work if you don't have an electoral check to what's going on now and that's why i'm saying that's very important, but looking down the road i think that the democrats, if they're going to actually govern the country in the future have to make this basic strategic choice about
whether a double down on the existing identity groups where all of the activists live and that's the way to get out the vote for elections, whether they want to try to attract back some of the white working class and other voters that he been leaving the party for the republicans over the last 30 years. i think at the electoral strategy the identity root has worked pretty well for them but i don't think it's actually went governing the country and i think that's the big choices now in front of, of the secular, the more and greater one. i can see the pressures for trying to do that. actually bernie sanders was more in my camp when he started his campaign by emphasizing economic issues of identity issues but even he ran into this buzz saw resistance because as i said it the activist live within the identity groups. that's the basic strategic
choice i think that is faced by the democrats now. >> you talk about -- thank you lap expert you. [talking over each other] about syria earlier as an example of what happens when there's a national identity. but i think your analysis of the syrian war started is wrong. the battle in syria in 2011 was a political battle. a lot of people demanding democracy and the were people who did not want democracy, the people who were in power that repressed with an iron fist. during this uprising there were kurds, sunnis, alawites, all demanding and inclusive system for syrians. there was a lot of slogans and things you see in the protest where people are saying we're all syrians, syrians are one, this kind of thing. i wonder if you can expand on
this kind of speeders unfortunately, in syria that is a relatively small group of people that were fighting the assad regime that were liberals in the western sense that actually wanted a tolerant democratic syria. i know a lot of them. i have worked with a lot of them. a lot of them are my friends. i wish there were more of them but, unfortunately, in that country there are a lot of other really powerful groups that basically wanted a particular version of islamist politics or a lot of foreigners have coming into the country that definitely did not want a democratic syria. the assad regime was terrible. it begins, you're right, it begins with the assad regime. they would rather see half their population either killed or flee the country rather than give up political power. that's a matter of national identity. the assad regime is loyal to the alawite sect. it is loyal to the sect rather
than to any notion that all of these other sunnis and kurds and other people should be part of a greater thing called syria. they don't care about that. all they care about is the survival of the alawites and then that sets up every other sectarian group in the country to simply defend only their sect and not an entity called syria. that was the basic problem. >> they also tortured and killed many alawites. >> they did, of course, of course. >> in 2012 the republican party had this speeders can you link and? >> the republican party family had this autopsy where they said, concluded that they were too racist basically come to at the immigration of that they needed to change. they obviously didn't, and it turns out that was the right thing to do for them electorally they won in 2016. is it ever going to be bad for
them? if they continue to win on these sort of policies, is it ever going to -- >> i think it's bad for them right now, right? i mean, they are trying to govern the country based on pretty extreme policies that are popular only with about a third of americans, and they are imposing that as national policies. i don't think you're doing a good job right now, all right? the question is when does it become so apparent to enough people that this is not a good set of policies on which to govern that they actually vote in a way that changes the electoral college? one of the things i think to worry about in the future is, already in the past 20 years we've had two elections in which the loser of the popular vote has actually become president, both of them republicans, and if a if you look at the electoral map, for the next several presidential electoral cycles
that may happen on a regular basis because all of the big population gains that will ship the demographic balance are all in, all occurring in california, new york, places that are reliably democratic already. furthermore, as the country continues to urbanites, a lot of small states like wyoming and montana and so forth which continue to get two senators compared to california that has 40 million people and two senators, so the underrepresented this of the senate is already very, very skewed and is going to continue to get more skewed as time goes on. i don't think this is this is a for stability in the future because there's going to be this increasingly evident divergence between popular will an electoral outcomes that is consistent going to favor the republicans. so you tell me at what point this brings people out into the
streets or provokes a really big upset. my prediction is if donald trump wins again in 2020, that actually the popular vote against him is actually going to be more than the 3 million that happened in 2016. so we're heading for a big constitutional crisis i think on precisely this issue. >> i want to push and something and i will go to you, but it seems to me this book, and maybe i projecting because i'm a person on the left who spends time criticizing the left and it seems that this book is more aimed at the left and it is at the right, but i almost kind of assume if loosely because you think the right is a lost cause, which frankly i do, too, which is that the right is not going to find the will, it's a leak and its leadership, its constituency will not find the will to get off corrosive path.
so the only hope in a sense is that the left, broadly speaking the democrats, find way to articulate a message that will defeat electorally, politically this kind of corrosive right. do you agree with that? feel free to disagree. >> first of all i don't believe more other the critique is aimed at the left. i have one chapter when trying to explain the origins of identity politics in the united states and if you think its origins are on the left. >> maybe i was projecting. [laughing] but as i said the book was written because donald trump became president. i don't think that it's necessary, that's a know you outlined is necessarily the case. elections really matter and i think a lot of republicans are lining up behind trump, if they lose, if the american people really start rejecting the
republican party as they may on november 6 they will begin to realize that this is really a losing cause and their loyalty may start to weaken. but you can't vote for nothing. you can't vote for nothing, and so i do think the democrats, you know, this midterm election i'm not worried about because all the candidates are sort of chosen locally. yet more conservative democrats running in swing states where it's sort of a tossup, but in 2020 they have to pick one standardbearer. that's going to be a really tough just because the party really is split between the progressive wing and the more centrist wing. you have to choose one person is going to represent the whole party and a really do have a worry that, that as republicans will seem at that point, if they don't have a good standardbearer, they may lose again. >> i think we're time for maybe two more questions. it seems like there are two
people in line. >> early on you spoke about drive towards actualization, i guess being driven as from binding groups to promote rights beyond the previous beach and the right though. i guess it's the word beyond that stuck with me so in my personal experience that every vote counts the same and not all speech, not a voice counts the same, if it tree falls and no one hears it didn't really fall? my seven year old who was a victim doesn't count the same as a local governments choice. so i'm wondering if you believe that in restoring the integrity of our generic right, the
freedom of speech and the right to vote in a more fundamental, more fundamentally, that we could reduce factionalization that way, and wrestling with taking it, like how do you move towards one another with these assumptions? does that make sense? >> quite honestly, the biggest misallocation of power completely has to do with the role of money in american politics. [applause] so what's going on in the world is as globalization has progressed, every single country has progressed layer of oligarchs are extremely rich people. in this country they're kind of distributed. this one's on the left and once on the right, but even if they all agreed with you politically, that's still a big problem because concentrated wealth, concentrator as it is today,
leads to concentrated political power. and so i think you can't really restore the equality i mean, you'll never get to a society where every force is actually equal, but you can certainly make it less than equal that it is and it has to be consummate in the realm of campaign finance. unfortunately, the supreme supt has made that extreme it difficult to legislate about. i think we actually have a project at stanford to try to figure out ways where you could strengthen the representativeness of elections in the nomination process without having to go to constitutional amendment. it's pretty difficult but i think there are certain things that can be done but if you don't solve the basic problem your seven-year-old festival going to have nearly the adequate voice that he deserves. >> right. she. >> sorry, she deserves.
>> what is that program at stanford? >> we had a program called american democracy in comparative perspective we came up with a number of reform ideas that don't require a constitutional amendment, because given polarization and how hard it is to change the constitution i think the sorts of things are off the table right now. >> i want to thank you, frank, for come here thank all of you. i will remind you -- [applause] just a quick reminder to everyone. frank will be in the signing tent so buy his book, get it signed, have a minute to talk. have a great texas book festival. >> thanks. [inaudible conversations]