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Other Views: Democrats need to drop identity politics--now

Bernie Sanders helped elect Donald Trump, and for that he will never be forgiven. But give this to Sanders: He’s totally right that Democrats must drop their obsession with identity politics if they want to regain power.

To concede that white working-class Americans have problems needing to be addressed does not preclude acknowledging the justified complaints of various minorities—ethnic, racial and gender-based. But this fixation on identity groups causes two kinds of harm.

One, it devalues candidates from these groups by turning their contests into referendums on their biology rather than intellect. The reportage following the recent wave of Democratic wins centered not on these candidates’ talents but on their identity—a transgender woman chosen for the Virginia Legislature, transgender people of color joining the Minneapolis City Council, a Sikh made mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, and a lesbian becoming mayor of Seattle.

Does this demonstrate that ordinary voters are not so prejudiced as some claim? To some extent perhaps. More importantly, it suggests that the voters recognized the intelligence and leadership qualities of Danica Roem, Andrea Jenkins, Phillipe Cunningham, Ravinder Bhalla and Jenny Durkan.

This points to the second harm done by identity politics. They turn elections into moral judgments on voters and their attitudes toward certain groups. Why did many white workers who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 switch to Trump in 2016? Did they suddenly turn racist? I don’t think so.

After this year’s elections, Sen. Kamala Harris of California proclaimed that “Democrats won incredible victories by embracing our diversity and rejecting the politics of hate.” Bah.

Again, those triumphs reflected strong candidates and an electorate that in fact didn’t seem to place much importance on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity. Must we assume, meanwhile, that all who voted otherwise were consumed with hate? Come on. That’s emotional extortion, and it turns voters off.

I voted twice for Obama because he was the better candidate, never because he was African-American. And my support for Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with her being a woman. I actually resent calls to vote on the bases of race and gender. Black, Latino and gay friends feel likewise, seeing condescension in appeals to sympathy for what they have no control over instead of respect for what they do.

Democrats don’t have to go on about how much more sensitive they are to the dignity of various minorities. Right-wingers are doing the work for them with their creepy attacks on gays, immigrants, African-Americans, religions and so on.

But condemning identity politics threatens the livelihood and importance of their peddlers. And that’s why they buried Mark Lilla in crazed charges of racism over his book “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.”

A professor of humanities at Columbia University, Lilla sees the contemporary left’s identity-based politics as a “textbook example of how not to build solidarity.” It’s why Republicans control the White House, both houses of Congress, two-thirds of the state legislatures and two-thirds of governorships.

The New Yorker’s David Remnick asked Lilla whether in-your-face protests by antifa types and campus identity groups aren’t essential to confronting social injustice. Lilla sees the point Remnick’s making but comes back to the point he’s making: Without power, Democrats can’t do anything for the overlooked, the oppressed or anyone else.

Steve Bannon famously said, “If the left is focused on race and identity and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

The man is appalling, but these words are on the mark. Sanders does Democrats a service by agreeing with them from the left. Identity politics are the road to political oblivion.

Your Views: Benefits of restructuring UW Colleges aren't clear

The Nov. 19 column (Page 9A), "Restructuring UW Colleges makes sense for students," is misleading. Obviously the restructure will not improve the demographic situation referenced.

Upper-level classes and four-year degrees are already available at college campuses. The only barriers to increasing these offerings are interested students and college/university resources. The “solution” doesn’t address either of these issues.

Other “benefits”--continued low tuition and credit transferability--are simply promises not to mess up what is already in place.

Since there is no plan as yet, it is not clear that there will be any financial savings. Of course, budget cuts can always be mandated, but no system change is required for that.

Access to higher education was a major goal of the relatively small college system. It is hard to believe this situation will be improved by making access another goal of a much larger system.

I also note that the “solution” was produced without the input of students, faculty or administrators from the colleges or the universities and without any input from affected local authorities.

This restructure probably benefits someone, but it is certainly not clear who.



Guest Views: North Korea on the march

With the push of a button and test-launch of another intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday night, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un raised the stakes in his mad dash to assemble a nuclear weapons arsenal. Washington, D.C., now appears in target range, or soon will be. New York, too. And of course, Chicago.

The North Korean regime’s Hwasong-15 ICBM flew higher and longer than in previous tests. The missile reached an altitude of nearly 3,000 miles before plopping down in the sea near Japan. Pyongyang claims it had the capability to arm the missile with a “super-large heavy” nuclear warhead, which would mean isolated, belligerent North Korea is also now a full-blown nuclear menace. Kim beamed with pride, according to state media. The rest of us should be alarmed.

While the firepower of the Hwasong-15 is unconfirmed, Pyongyang’s nuke program is obviously advancing at alarming speed.

Welcome to a brave, new—and much scarier—world. This is a world in which a ruthless, unpredictable outlaw nation has the capacity now, or will soon, to wield nuclear missiles as a threat. President Donald Trump’s response to this provocation was uncharacteristically low-key. “We will take care of it.”

But how? U.S. options may be more circumscribed if Kim’s boast is true, or soon will be.

Trump announced that major new economic sanctions against North Korea will roll out. He talked again to Chinese President Xi Jinping about more cooperation to squeeze North Korea into capitulating. China is Pyongyang’s main trade partner and primary lifeline, and also an ally that sees a functioning, muscle-flexing North Korea as a buffer against the United States’ dominant military presence in the Pacific.

This tense moment has been a long time coming. North Korea, despite its isolation and impoverishment, has spent decades pursuing a nuclear weapons program while its citizens ate grass. Three previous U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, failed at their efforts to negotiate a deal to put North Korea’s nuclear program back in the bottle.

The aim of Kim is the same as that of his father and grandfather, who ran the country before him: self-preservation of the regime. With nuclear arms, Kim wards off the rest of the world and uses his military assets to seek economic aid or try to bully the U.S. off the Korean Peninsula. The United States deploys tens of thousands of troops in South Korea and Japan to keep the peace.

Attempts to cajole or bribe the North Koreans into giving up their nuclear ambitions have never worked. Neither has the lame policy of so-called strategic patience that Obama pursued. With Pyongyang matching its capabilities to its threats, the notion of peaceably defusing this situation seems more distant than ever. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. is headed for military confrontation.

Best-case scenario: The North declares it has achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state and is now ready to talk.

Worst case short of an attack on the U.S. or its allies: North Korea parlays its nuclear prowess into a profit center and sells weapons or technology to other rogue nations and terrorist groups.

As dangerous as this moment feels, it’s also a reality check. Trump cannot afford to let years pass as his predecessors foolishly did.

—Chicago Tribune

Web Views for Friday, Dec. 1

From online story comments and Facebook

On Sunday story about local food deserts: The guy in this story used to shop at Pick ‘n Save but now has to shop for convenience food at the Five Points? Sentry is just up the road. Go there.

—Joe From Wisconsin

“Food desert” is merely another term of art for infantalizing certain demographics. Leftists commit such infantalizing in a perverse effort to feel good about themselves. They do this to the detriment of the infantalized.


We need a grocery store on our side of town. Hopefully people’s voices will be heard and we are made to feel like we matter.

—Jennifer Shaw

Do you know how angry this makes me?! City leaders, get your act together. Get a store on the south side. Too many without easy transportation for hauling food live “down” here.

—Connie Golden

I disagree. Anyone who has true need has access to Foodshare, and they can go to ALDI and eat healthy. They CHOOSE not to. I have worked as a cashier at Wal-Mart, and they eat garbage.

—Tina Ferguson

How do you suppose those who are in need for healthy food get to ALDI? More than likely, they don’t have the means to transportation.

—Sara Fisher-Schumacher

Certain population areas simply don’t choose healthy food, regardless of availability at a low cost.

— philosophyofliberty

On death of former school district spokesman: Howard Gage inspired me to dream big when I was a very impressionable teenager. An amazing man who touched the lives of many! He definitely left his mark on this earth.

—Brett A. Grant

On Wednesday column, “The festering mess that is Illinois”: One thing Illinois got right was tollways. Charging people to drive on those roads has had absolutely zero negative effects whatsoever on that state. Wisconsin could easily solve their budget problems with the astronomical money that could be gained with tolling.


On latest high-profile people accused of sexual harassment: It seems ironic that the majority of individuals dismissed or under fire for inappropriate behavior recently are stalwarts of the Democratic Party who champions themselves as the party that supports women.


On Sunday editorial, “Milton should view problem from new angle”: When the district lines are redrawn, Milton can once again be a nice school not worried about keeping up with the Joneses. Do the right thing and redraw the line as Janesville kids deserve to go to Janesville schools. It’s about the kids, right?


Building a new school makes sense. It made sense in 2007 and will make sense in the near future because the reality of overcrowding and not being able to service all students exists in Milton. This isn’t “fake news,” people. When the old car starts to nickel and dime you, you get a shiny new one. You don’t keep repairing it.


On Monday “thumbs down” to eggnog: I’ve never seen anyone with such a hate-on for anything as innocuous as eggnog before. Perhaps one of the editors suffered a childhood trauma involving a glass of nog? Now that would be a story worth hearing!


Northman, I think that “thumbs down” was tongue-in-cheek. But if they start disrespecting Tom and Jerry’s, there will be hell to pay.


On city of Janesville passing 2018 budget: Whoa! Significant percentage increases in both property and city taxes. And just think, if the GOP passes their tax bill, these won’t even be deductible on federal taxes. So an increase in income taxes, too. I’m sorry for all those on fixed incomes. Janesville is not going to become more attractive to house hunters.