The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

by Mark Lilla (Author)

In early Aug 2016, we had predicted the rise of Donald Trump and his potential win as the 45th President of the United States. In that piece. I had specifically mentioned the emergent rise of entities both in politics, innovative industries and in geo-political spheres. Donald Trump was an entity that came from no where, had no chance of winning as per some very smart pollsters, yet, shocked the populace with the surprise win. Although I have no political affiliations and consider all politicians the same, the rise of Donald Trump was a text book case of emergent phenomenon which I have been avidly studying since the last two decades.

It takes keen interest and piercing insights to notice these emergent trends which can significantly impact the future. There is another trend which is rising and infectiously spreading all across  the world i.e populist nationalism. Populist nationalism is not a sustainable trend but a variant of the populist nationalism i.e economic nationalism is slowing emerging from the flanks as the second best thing. It is likely to become a major force in the 2020 elections in the United States.If you are interested in trends, predictive forecasts, hyperforecasts or generally interested in politics, a new book may offer some insight into future developments that most people are ignoring.

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics” written by Mark Lila who is an American political scientist and professor of humanities at Columbia University in New York City. He claims to be a liberal, his writings may make you question his political leaning, but, he is indeed what I call is an enlightened liberal. Specifically, reviewing the prediction error that engulfed the democratic voters after the results were announced, Mark Lila’s book seemed like a thesis ready but written a little too late. Democrats would have really gained a strategic advantage if they had access to this book before. 

Lila defines Identity Politics as “A pseudo-politics of self-regard and increasingly narrow and exclusionary self-definition that is now cultivated in our colleges and universities“. He further cautions the liberals to stay away from identity politics instead creating a shared vision around sustainable economic future for all the citizens of the country. He claims that identity politics was driven originally by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the left has now unwittingly balkanized the electorate, encouraged self-absorption rather than solidarity, and invested its energies in social movements rather than in party politics.The book falls short in some places, specifically offering tangible solutions for democrats. A third front in preparation by Steve Bannon focussed around revised “economic nationalism” could gate crash democrats hopes of winning the elections in 2020.

For expats and immigrants living in the United States, this book opens a window into how foreign labour and imported workforce will continue to come under sustained pressure in the future. The concept of labour arbitrage as the evil set of conditions which allows greedy companies to hire cheaper foreign labour over American workers resonates very well with the voters. Even if factually unproven, perception is reality and guides voter actions. This book is also a wake up call to all foreign technology workers that they need to do a lot more in the country of origin to create bleeding edge technologies rather than piggyback on the leading edge or trailing edge downstream opportunities. It is becoming much harder to piggyback on trailing edge industries or skill-sets acquired to fulfill the workforce demands of bleeding edge and leading edge industries. Once the concept of “economic nationalism” takes root deep inside the voter psyche, foreigners will be seen as unwelcome guests in the country forcing a mass exodus to home countries.

Elon Musk - Technological Innovation - Bleeding, Leading and Trailing Edge

The book is a short 140 page book and indirectly explains why the agenda around Trade Agreements, NAFTA, Foreign Guest Workers and Illegal Immigrants really connected the GOP voters together. At a time when many Americans are struggling to pay their bills and living paycheck to paycheck, they do not have the luxury to think about the peripheral/ancillary moral issues plaguing the country. The rust belt voters chose Trump’s direct promise to get the jobs back over democrats vision of changing America and the world. This book is very timely and will help everyone who needs to plan their future specifically democrats, republicans, alternate fronts, expats and foreign workers.