A Deeply Divisive Victory One Year Later

One year since the electoral victory of Donald Trump, the nation remains divided as ever as both the left and right endeavor to process and understand what the 2016 outcome says about our current political condition. These new releases explore inequality and power in America,  taking a longer view at how we got here and the politics that brought Donald Trump to power.

Race and America’s Long War examines the relationship between war, politics, police power, and the changing contours of race and racism in the contemporary United States. Spanning the course of U.S. history, these crucial essays show how the return of racism and war as seemingly permanent features of American public and political life is at the heart of our present crisis. In the epilogue, author Nikhil Singh addresses the deeply divided country and what he calls the two Americas:

Long before Trump emerged, the GOP was the most politically entrenched, racially homogeneous far-Right political party in the Western world, one that mobilized and welded together social conservatism, a near-fanatical commitment to upward wealth redistribution, climate-change denial, the rejection of socially useful public spending, hostility to taxation in support of transfer payments to the poorest and most vulnerable, racially coded appeals to law and order, and anti-immigrant animus. Its ascent was aided by opposition to gains in formal equality, particularly the reproductive rights of women, the civil rights of racial and sexual minorities, and the ethno-racial diversification of U.S. public institutions and public culture—including schools and universities. Republican public policy was informed by moral panics about crime, drugs, and welfare, and legal resistance to moderate reforms such as affirmative action, antidiscrimination remedies, voting-rights protection and abortion rights. The last time the Republican Party controlled all three branches of government was in 2001, and we know what ensued then. Before that, the last occurrence of this special alignment was 1928, right before the Great Depression. . . .

Donald Trump, who led a consistent and consciously racist opposition to Obama’s presidency, is now in ascendancy. With Trump, the violent contradictions of the inner and outer wars are laid bare. For unlike Obama, Trump based his appeal on the promise to intensify divisions along lines of race, nation, and religion. His additional vow to abandon climate-change mitigation denies the very problem of the imperiled ecology that humans share. Trump poses an old question: who is entitled to freedom and security—or, more precisely, to the freedom of an unlimited security and the security of an unlimited freedom? One of the hallmarks of liberal-democratic claims to superior civilization has been the commitment to mitigate boundless violence in the name of boundless freedom for everyone. Though the oppositions between Obama and McCain, or Obama and Bush, or Obama or Clinton and Trump, are convenient shorthand for all those characteristic efforts to distinguish good from bad U.S. nationalism (that is, the civic from the racial, the patriotic from the jingoistic, the democratic from the statist), Trump reminds us that one feature is constant: to make (American) history, one still needs the stomach to make victims. Read the first chapter here.

In How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump, Laura Briggs says we can’t understand the rise of Trump, or combat the forces he represents, without attention to reproductive politics. Briggs brilliantly outlines how politicians’ racist accounts of reproduction were the leading wedge in the government and business disinvestment in families.

When Donald Trump, vying for the Republican presidential nomination, first hit the front page of every paper in 2015 and generated Twitter storms, it was by saying that Mexico was sending “rapists” to the United States. Aside from strumming an old string in US politics by seeming to defend a violated, victimized (white) womanhood from a racialized other (the lynching story, or before that, the Indian captivity narrative), he also got it wrong in an interesting way: the majority of migrants from Mexico to the United States are women, in significant part because changes in reproductive labor in the United States have made the work of caring for the house, the children, the elderly, and people with disabilities something that, increasingly, someone had to be hired to do—and Latinas, in particular, got those jobs. Our public conversations about race, immigration, and same-sex marriage center around questions of children, households, and families. (Or, to put it the other way, our conversations about reproductive politics are deeply about race, just as they are about sexuality.) When we think about feminism and careers, abortion, and assisted reproduction, it is perhaps more obvious that we are talking about reproduction, but I want to argue that we are thinking as much about the politics of how to raise children and the economy at large as we are the simple facts of pregnancy and birth. When we talk about the economy, we are talking about reproductive politics, because families and households are where we live our economic situation. Reproductive politics are, in fact, so powerfully central to everything else we talk about in the United States that whether we look to wealth and poverty, schools and policing, financial speculation in the housing market (and single mothers as a particular niche market to be targeted for subprime mortgages), or even foreign policy (think about overpopulation and development, international adoption, the ever-renewable fight about aid funding for birth control and abortion, or burqas and the politics of modest dress and family relations in the Islamic world). In the United States, there is no outside to reproductive politics, even though that fact is sometimes obscured. Read the first chapter here.

While Donald Trump insists that Chicago is a “total disaster” and evokes the “carnage” on its streets,  author Andrew J. Diamond says the city evokes so much that is patently American. His book Chicago on the Make: Power and Inequality in a Modern City traces the evolution of urban societies and the history of neoliberalization that created stark inequalities. It is a quintessential modern American city.

As the symbol of a triumphant industrial past, Chicago also emblematizes another of the country’s grand narratives: its long tradition of immigration and cultural pluralism. If in recent years the increasing economic insecurity of middle-class Americans has fueled the growth of anti-immigration sentiments, especially in the southwestern states along the Mexican border, the cherished idea of the United States as a country of immigrants persists. Well recognized is the fact that waves of immigrants and African American migrants worked many of the jobs that made Chicago and the United States with it an industrial giant during the American Century. The urban landscape in the minds of most Americans is a multiethnic place that mixes distinct ethnoracial communities and cultures, and in this sense Chicago once more appears as the prototypical American city. . . .

The term neoliberalization is invoked not merely to connote the implementation of a package of economic-minded policies that had inadvertent social and political consequences—such policies were in fact implemented and they did have important social and political consequences, especially beginning in the early 1990s under Richard M. Daley. A more important dimension of the story of neoliberalization being told here involves revealing how market values and economizing logics penetrated into the city’s political institutions and beyond them into its broader political culture. This political history of Chicago seeks to understand from both the top down and the bottom up how this happened and how the advance of neoliberalization crippled the political forces standing in opposition to it: labor unions, municipal reformers, neighborhood planning boards, civil rights organizations, and a range of other political organizations that sought to challenge injustices within the prevailing social and political order. Read the introduction here.


How Race and Neoliberalization Shaped Chicago Politics

Chicago has attracted the gaze of journalists, novelists, essayists, and scholars as much as any city in the nation. And, yet, few historians have attempted big-picture narratives of the city’s transformation over the twentieth century.

Chicago on the Make: Power and Inequality in a Modern City traces the evolution of the city’s politics, culture, and economy as it grew from an unruly tangle of rail yards, slaughterhouses, factories, tenement houses, and fiercely defended ethnic neighborhoods into a truly global urban center.

Reinterpreting the familiar narrative that Chicago’s autocratic machine politics shaped its institutions and public life, acclaimed historian Andrew J. Diamond demonstrates how the grassroots politics of race crippled progressive forces and enabled an alliance of downtown business interests to promote a neoliberal agenda that created the stark inequalities that ravage the city today.

From his introduction, Diamond describes the idea of Chicago vs. its reality:

Chicago has evoked so much that is patently American, and it continues to do so today even after President Trump attempted to make it into an aberration by evoking the “carnage” on its streets. First and foremost, with its 2.7 million residents (nearly 10 million in the entire metropolitan area), it is the clear-cut capital of the Midwest and thus of the fabled American “heartland”—a nebulous place that politicians of every stripe appeal to in order to convince voters that they represent the “real” people. And Chicago strikes this populist chord in ways that other “great” American cities do not. In contrast with the dominant image of the good people residing in the older, educated cities of the eastern seaboard, for example, the stereotypical Chicagoan speaks in a thick accent, pronouncing words like the and these as “da” and “dese.” While notions of class justice (and injustice) now struggle for legitimacy within the realm of mainstream political discourse in the United States, American patriotism nonetheless remains infused with celebrations of average working men and women—which keeps Chicago a working-class town in the American imagination, even if it now ranks among the most economically powerful global cities in the world.

A people’s history, Chicago on the Make sheds new light on how the interplay of race and neoliberalization shaped Chicago’s political culture.

Join Andrew J. Diamond at one of his Chicago speaking engagements:

Tuesday, November 7
6-7pm
Chicago Public Library: Harold Washington Library Center
Free and open to the public
Check the event page for more details

Wednesday, November 8
6-7:30pm
Newberry Research Library
Free and open to the public
Check the event page for more details

Thursday, November 9
5:45-8pm
Chicago History Museum
$25, price includes dinner and parking
Check the event page for more details