An apparent trend is growing among conservatives who want credit for criticizing Donald Trump's obvious lack of fitness for office, while still maintaining their right wing credentials by attack liberals with false equivalencies. First, it was John Danforth, in his appearance on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. Now, MSNBC has continued its inexplicable tolerance for such insults, by allowing George F. Will to repeat Danforth's distortion: that somehow, the racist White Supremacy that Donald Trump continues to defend, is analogous to "the identity politics of the left" on Ari Melber's new show The Beat.
As I pointed out in a previous op-ed here, this false equivalence confuses cause and effect. Identity politics arises from similar experiences, and is strengthened by prejudice, discrimination, and suffering. Given that, it is particularly heinous and hurtful to equate the consciousness-raising that leads to direct action against the kind of hate demonstrated by the violent demonstrators in Charlottesville, with that very hate.
The whole notion that "identity politics" is the unique purview of those who are seen as having identities, is a manifestation of the hidden bias Eugene Robinson admirably uncovered during the confirmation process of Justice Sonya Sotomayor. The assumption of many of the senators questioning her, or commenting on her confirmation, is that her very identity as a Latina made her point of view automatically suspect. That her experiences would "color" her judgments in a way that doesn't exist for white men. The underlying schema is that the "generic" form of humanity is what we are used to seeing among the powerful. Anyone from another background has a point of view, in a way that is somehow lacking in those in the majority. Of course, power and privilege are invisible to those who hold it; inescapable for those who don't. As Robinson put it:
"Republicans' outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor's musings about how her identity as a 'wise Latina' might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any 'identity' -- black, brown, female, gay, whatever -- has to be judged against this supposedly 'objective" standard.'"
The shared experiences that spawn the "identity politics on the left," are a history of oppression, discrimination, and exclusion from the very definition of humanity. In the case of women whose lives and health depend on reproductive health care, as well as people of color who are killed with impunity by law enforcement, the fight is often one of life and death. The goal is to be seen as human. To the contrary, the goal of the hate-mongers that Trump refers to as "very fine people" is at the very least, the continuation of privilege; of their perspective being seen as objective, neutral one. At its worst, it is a call for the annihilation of all others. There is no equivalence between reproductive rights or Black Lives Matter protests, and the calls for "Blood and Soil" and "Jews will not replace us!"
What I can't understand, is why both Lawrence O'Donnell and Ari Melber are allowing this lie to go unanswered. As with O'Donnell, I have tremendous respect for Ari Melber. I was excited for his new show, as I was with the recent continuation of Lawrence's contract. As liberals, we look to MSNBC - especially as prime time grows near - to stand for the truism that "facts have a liberal bias." If they're desperate for conservatives voices, I suggest they follow the example of Rachel Maddow. She's been known to practically beg Republicans on air, to appear on her show. But she doesn't allow them to get away with false equivalence when they get there.