Brendan O’Neill

Donald Trump and the death of identity politics

Donald Trump and the death of identity politics
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Wow, for a white supremacist Donald Trump has done very well among black and Latino voters. Literally Hitler, as some woke agitators loved to call him after he won the election in 2016, seems to have boosted his support among black men and black women and, most strikingly, among Latinos, who appear to be swinging things for Trump in some areas. Not bad for a president who, as the correct-thinking section of society constantly insisted, cares only about white folks.

The results from the US are still unclear. Joe Biden might very well end up in the White House. But the stronger-than-expected showing for Trump has delivered an almighty body blow to pollsters and pundits who predicted a Biden landslide and to those who had been praying this election would repudiate Trumpism once and for all. Whatever else the election might do, it hasn’t repudiated Trumpism. But it is very possible that it will repudiate identity politics.

According to one exit poll, white men were the only social group to shift significantly to the Democrats compared with 2016. Among other social groups — including white women, black men and Latinos — there appears to have been a shift towards Trump. I look forward to the myriad op-ed pieces claiming that Joe Biden has been the beneficiary of a ‘whitelash’, of nasty white men defending their own narrow political and social interests. After all, that’s what the chattering classes said when Trump won large numbers of white male votes in 2016, remember?

According to early analysis by CNN, Trump picked up significantly more Latino votes in key battleground states this time round than he did in 2016. In Florida, one of the most stunning results of the night, almost half of Latinos voted for Trump, up from 35 per cent in 2016. The Democrats’ share of the Latino vote in Florida fell from 62 per cent in 2016 to around 50 per cent this time. The Democrats lost Latino voters in Ohio and Georgia too.

There appears to have been a shift of working-class black voters towards Trump too. Some saw this coming. As NBC reported a couple of days ago, despite the conventional wisdom of Trump being the president of choice of white folks, actually minority voters were key to his election victory in 2016, and many of them seemed likely to rally around him in 2020 too. He is ‘poised to do even better with minority voters’, NBC predicted, with what looks like ‘highly consistent and broad-based [support] among Blacks and Hispanics’.

If Trump is a white supremacist (narrator: he isn’t), then he isn’t a very good one. We now have the very curious and revealing situation where many white voters — especially university-educated white voters — are anti-Trump on the basis that he is a racist, while many minority voters are more than happy to vote for Trump. For four years, Latinos have been told by the mostly white clever people of the east and west coast elites that Trump hates them, and yet Latinos didn’t listen. They thought for themselves and lined up behind a president whose outlook they seem to prefer to the super-woke, knee-taking, ‘defund the police’ worldview of certain sections of the leftish establishment.

As for working-class black voters going for Trump in seemingly larger numbers this time round, who can blame them? Some of these people will have seen their local areas and businesses smashed up and burnt down by protesters who were cheered, or at least not condemned, by leading Democrats and the anti-Trump media. They will have seen upper-middle-class white anarchists and TikTok revolutionaries from suburbia coming into their areas to throw around some petrol bombs in the name of ‘black lives’. If many of them decided that Trump is preferable to this nonsense, that isn’t surprising.

From what we know so far, it seems that identity politics has taken a bit of a pounding in this election. This would be a very good development. If whites, blacks and Latinos are discovering that they share much in common, that they are united by political concerns, that is a big step forward from the rigid, deadening identitarianism of sections of the left who insist that black people, Latino people and white people all have distinctive interests and should vote accordingly. Where too many in the Democratic wing of politics view voters as racial blocs, as mere ethnicities to be appealed to with ethnic-tinged politics, Trump seems to promise a more universalising form of political life.

For too long it has been assumed that people must vote according to their skin colour or their national heritage. Remember Biden telling a black interviewer that if he hadn’t already decided to vote for the Democrats, ‘then you ain’t black’? Some people underestimate how offensive this infantilising and racialising dynamic is to people of colour. All voters can think for themselves, whatever their background, and this election is confirming that. Let’s hope that whoever wins, identitarianism will lose.