Why some leftists practice divisive identity group politics

Many chardonnay-sipping coastal liberals attribute rising poverty rates and wealth disparities to “white privilege” as opposed to a morally bankrupt political economy. If we just set aside a few more places in elite universities for people of color, mandate hiring quotas, and stop “stop and frisk,” the thinking goes, all our problems will disappear.

This provides both psychological and material benefits for progressive elites. They get to pat themselves on the back for 1) not being racist and 2) being hip to trendy sociological constructs. At the same time, they neatly side-step the moral imperative to sacrifice their privileged status by paying higher taxes and leveling, not just the playing field, but the outcome of the game.

Confident in their abilities and those of their children to succeed, many liberal professionals like doctors, lawyers, and professors are comfortable with wealth and income disparities as long as they can persuade themselves that everybody has a decent shot at the brass ring. The fact that African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans comprise a disproportionately large share of the poor, however, belies the comforting myth that America is a meritocracy.

In consequence, affluent liberals may be inclined to view “white privilege” and other social pathologies, like homophobia and misogyny, as the primary drivers of injustice in America. This interpretation offers the comforting hope that truly redistributive tax policy, which would reduce their economic advantages, is unnecessary. Instead, “zero-sum game” solutions like set-aside programs, open-mindedness, and better education – none of which demand much sacrifice from the professional class – are sufficient.

I call them zero-sum game because they don’t increase the total number of people with access to the corridors of top universities and management offices or reduce the gap between the richest and everybody else. By design, they increase the percentage of poor and working whites and middle-class people of color.

In contrast to the meritocracy-worshiping liberal, dyed-in-the-wool leftists view all history as a struggle between purely self-interested classes. They have no faith in government which they believe is inherently corrupt. For them our so-called democracy is a chimera. So proven liberal solutions for rising inequality, like higher taxes on the rich and better-administered and designed job and social programs are useless or, to the extent they allow a calcified unjust system to persist a few extra years, worse than that.

The hope of these hard core lefties may well be increased discord and acrimony among various members of the traditional leftist coalition resulting in the implosion of an irredeemable system. Hence they promote identity group politics which directly pit people of color against whites, Latinos against blacks, women against men, and gays against straights.

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