In the Trump era Democrats need to revive their critique of the abuse of economic power.
In the immediate aftermath of the November election, we witnessed what may well be the beginning of a political paradigm shift. Rooted in what might be best described as a literary crisis of political narration on the left, this crisis was exemplified in the reaction to a New York Times op-ed written by Mark Lilla, a political philosophy professor at Columbia. Lilla’s essay marked the demise of what he called identity liberalism, a public intervention notable not only for its argument but mainly for how that argument was received. On the right it produced little more than supportive jibes directed at the difference-based politics often celebrated by the Democrats, which Lilla painted as a failure. But on the left it was greeted with either a shock of realization or the kind of contempt reserved for heretics.
What provided Lilla’s essay with such moral force on the left was not its thesis, that class divisions were coming to replace cultural divisions in the hearts and minds of the people, which had been offered many times before, but the fact that such disastrous failure for their agenda now convinced progressives, for a time, that they truly did not understand how to make sense of recent developments on the political scene. What was increasingly called “the narrative” had shifted against Democrats and progressives, whatever the sanguine demographic predictions promised them.