Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Identity Politics At Big Lots

Identity Politics and its limits are on display in the Democratic Party presidential primary campaign, where vitriolic skirmishes have broken out between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter activists and between Hillary Clinton supporting feminists and everyone else.

Young Black women have interrupted two recent Bernie Sanders campaign events and forced Sanders from the stage. Although he is being ignored by the mainstream media, Democratic-Socialist Sanders has been drawing the largest crowds of any Democrat or Republican. At an event this past weekend in Seattle, where a legitimate Socialist sits on the city council, Sanders drew 28,000 people.

Younger Black activists, many associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, are angry that their issues aren't taken seriously by white Progressives and that their votes are taken for granted. Their sometimes heavy handed "in your face" tactics have caused some heavy handed backlash from Sanders supporters, causing, in turn, some young Blacks to threaten boycotting the 2016 election: Internet radio host Elon James White tweeted this weekend:

Leftists, especially, have criticized the modern Democratic Party for being more a coalition of Identity Politics groups than being based on economic class interests. Identity Politics is defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as:

"The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestos, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination."

Their article goes into some detail about Identity Politics, as does a Wikipedia article where it's defined essentially the same way and which gives examples of identity groups; "Examples include social organizations based on race, class, religion, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, ideology, nation, sexual orientation, culture, information preference, history, musical or literary preference, medical conditions, professions or hobbies. Not all members of any given group are necessarily involved in identity politics."

People in various identity groups tend to be "one issue" voters at this stage of an election campaign. They see the world through the lens of the critique of American society created by their particular identity group, which puts their issues at the front and ties everything that happens to that critique in some way, and they want a candidate who favors their interests; interests as defined by their identity.

I often criticize Democrats on the basis of their abandonment of economic class politics, calling them Republicans who are liberal on two social issues -- abortion and gay marriage. That only hints at a misplaced emphasis on identity politics.

There are two things at work. The politics of getting votes, and the interests being served by those in power once they get in office. Democrats and Republicans both say all kinds of things to get votes from the working class, which includes people who work for a living including the false category "Middle Class" and makes up the overwhelming majority of the electorate. It includes most members of the various identity groups.

Once politicians are in office they occasionally "toss a bone" to their identity politics based supporters, but their main concern -- based on its overall significance and the time they devote to it -- becomes the group of economic issues that play out in federal budgeting processes.

Democrats should abandon identity politics based campaigning and build their base of support on class interests. They won't do that on their own, of course. For a number of reasons they have abandoned the working class, and will only be forced back into representing their economic interests. That will only happen when there's an increased awareness by the working class that their shared interests are economic, and that their identity based interests can best be furthered by gaining political power as an economic class. Part of this equation requires that Marxists and other Leftists make the case that things like racial discrimination and other interests important to identity politics adherents are rooted in the Capitalist system. It means fleshing out the age old premise that we are the products of our environment -- that is, our social and cultural environment -- which is one of the fundamental tenants of Marxism, which holds that the economic system -- Capitalism in our case -- is the primary determinant of our environment.

The Big Lots Effect

The Albuquerque Business Journal has an article speculating about how home values are influenced by proximity to certain upscale businesses. It refers to what's called the Starbucks Effect. Studies have shown that there's a correlation between how close a house is to a Starbucks and its value. The Biz Journal article looked at home prices relative to Trader Joes and Whole Foods Markets, both of which are in Albuquerque:

"The average value of a home near a Trader Joe's was $592,339. A home near Whole Foods was about $561,840. RealtyTrac found that on average, homes near a Trader Joe's appreciated 40.11 percent, compared to homes near a Whole Foods that appreciated 33.51 percent. The average appreciation of all U.S. homes is 34 percent, according to RealtyTrac."

Note I used the word "correlation." These kinds of articles are fun because they imply that there is a causal effect between being close to an upscale business and home values -- that being close causes the value to go up. If there is any causal effect it's probably the other way around. It's more likely that the homes were there first and the businesses followed. Real estate values and market potential made it more likely that a Trader Joes would go in than a Big Lots. The relation is most likely correlative and has to do with the way land gets developed. An overall pattern is established in the early phases of an area's development from raw land that affects what kind of homes and businesses will be there, and that pattern is established by other factors, mainly location. The home value and the Trader Joes are related to that, not to each other, thus their relation is correlative.

The closest retail store to where I live is a Big Lots. Damn Democrats.

Big Lots at Coors Blvd and Los Volcanes Rd - Google Maps

Note: To the right you can see China Buffet. I sometimes eat there, and I sometimes stop on my way to Holbrook and get a buffet plate to go -- because of the Big Lots and its loading docks there's room to park a semi in the back.

It's a pretty good Chinese buffet run by a young Chinese couple but they are very frugal. Get there at least an hour before they close. Nothing new gets put out onto the buffet unless they are sure they can sell it. I've learned by experience.

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