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.


Banned Books Week 2017: What Feminism Means

As part of Banned Books Week, we share a list of recommended titles that promote the freedom to seek and express ideas. UC Press is proud to publish esteemed feminist scholars and activists who argue for inclusivity and social justice in all forms, who advocate for feminism and the movement towards an equal society for all people, without discrimination.

During Banned Books Week (ending September 30), get a 30% discount on these selected titles on Feminism.

Below, enjoy some highlights from our list:

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump
by Laura Briggs

“This book is a tour de force that highlights the failures of neoliberalism for many American families. With intensity and verve, Laura Briggs reveals the crisscrossing binds that constrain women, particularly women of color, queer women, and poor women.”—Alexandra Minna Stern, author of Eugenic Nation and Telling Genes

“Move over Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Here comes Laura Briggs, who shows how questions of care stand at the center of all politics. Briggs unmasks the racialized, classed, and gendered politics of this neoliberal moment with verve, sophistication, and vision.”—Eileen Boris, coauthor, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

 

The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging the Persistence of Patriarchy
by Cynthia Enloe

“With Cynthia’s accessible and engaging style, The Big Push shines an important new light on contemporary and historical events.”—Sandra Whitworth, author of Men, Militarism and UN Peacekeeping

“Women and men who care about democracy and social justice need to read this book. Cynthia Enloe’s astute and far-sighted interpretation of ‘sustainable patriarchy’ is just what we need for the feminist struggles unfolding in the twenty-first century.”—Kathryn Kish Sklar, author of Women’s Rights Emerges within the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1830-1870

 

 

Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s
by Rachel Middleman

“With detailed discussions of the bold ways that heterosexual women artists foregrounded their sexuality as confrontational, critical, and political, Radical Eroticism makes an important contribution to the literature on Sixties art and adds to the revisions of its history that locate sex and gender as defining characteristics of the decade.”—David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“A crucial resource for future studies of contemporary women’s erotic art and the sexual politics of erotic representations.”—Susan Richmond, Associate Professor of Art History, Georgia State University

 

Provocations: A Transnational Reader in the History of Feminist Thought
by Susan Bordo

Provocations is an ambitious, pioneering, interdisciplinary anthology that promises to disrupt hegemonic narratives of the complex histories of feminisms that permeate women’s studies classrooms in the U.S. academy. From the ancient world to the recent Arab Spring, Provocations engages some of the most compelling and contentious debates in the centuries old ‘woman question.’”—Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and Founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College

 

 

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction
by Loretta Ross & Rickie Solinger

“Controlling reproduction and the bodies of women seems to be the first step in every hierarchy. That’s why reproductive justice—women having power over our own bodies—is the crucial first step toward any democracy, any human rights, and any justice.” —Gloria Steinem

“We need to know the history laid out in Reproductive Justice, because we need to not repeat the ugliness of the past. Our strategies need to be inclusive and intersectional.None of us are free until we’re all free.”—Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

 

 

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song
by Ronnie Gilbert with a foreword by Holly Near 

“Activism is just one of the threads winding through this title, along with music, theater, performance, politics, and the challenges of building a life outside of the 20th-century mainstream. . . . Yet it’s the music that shines the brightest in this memoir; Gilbert’s time with the Weavers and her creative partnership with Holly Near bookend a life no less remarkable for being remarkably nonlinear.”—Library Journal

“Gilbert’s memoir brings to life the frightening political climate of the times. . . . We are fortunate that Gilbert took the time to document her singular experiences as a committed activist and singer whose soaring contralto and “dangerous songs” both accompanied and animated the progressive movements of her time.”—San Francisco Chronicle


Banned Books Week 2017: Promoting Progressive Change

As part of Banned Books Week, occurring September 24 – 30, we’ll be sharing recommended reading lists that promote the freedom to seek and express ideas. At UC Press, we believe that scholarship is a powerful tool for fostering a deeper understanding of our world and changing how people think, plan, and govern. Our mission is to drive progressive change by seeking out and cultivating the brightest minds and giving them voice, reach, and impact.

During #BannedBooksWeek, get a 30% discount on these selected titles that promote progressive change in feminism, politics, Islam, and free speech. #BannedBooks

What’s your favorite UC Press book that you think should have made the list for Banned Books Week? Let us know in the comment section below.


Most Immigrants Are Women: Does the Trump Administration Want to Deport Them, or Just Keep Them Working for Low Wages?

By Laura Briggs, author of How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump

It’s always been unclear whether the goal of the Trump White House was to limit the number of undocumented immigrants in this country, or just to terrorize them and keep them as vulnerable, underpaid workforce, and the recent debate about DACA underscores that fact.

Our economy relies on immigrant labor, and needs it to be cheap—and not just for the reasons most people think. The majority of immigrants to the United States, and nearly half the undocumented population are women, and many of them are doing household labor—cleaning, caring for children, elders, and others who cannot care for themselves. They’re not doing it so the rest of us can have more down time—far from it. On average, everybody is working more. As real wages have declined, the middle class has hung on by throwing more adults into the labor force, mostly women. In 1960, 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of U.S. children live in households where all the adults are employed. So who’s doing the household work? Business certainly has not picked up the tab; workers in the U.S. aren’t even guaranteed sick days, never mind childcare. We haven’t raised taxes for government to pay for it, either. Indeed, the most revealing moments in the debate over the Affordable Care Act repeal were when Republicans admitted that to get Medicaid costs down, sick elders needed to get out of nursing homes and go back to living with their families (read: daughters—Paul Ryan sure wasn’t planning to go part-time to care for his mother.)

So for the whole economic calculus to work—in which women must work, but get paid less than men (to the benefit of their employers), and we don’t raise taxes to pay for government programs, something had to give. This was the brilliance of the 1990s crackdown on undocumented immigrants: it ensured that there a class of women who could be paid even less than women who were citizens, at exactly the moment when the economy most needed them. During the Clinton administration, three key things happened. Walmart became the largest single employer in the country, owing much of their “efficiency” to women’s low wages. The controversy over Zöe Baird’s nomination as attorney general—“Nannygate”—launched a nationwide enforcement crackdown on immigrants without papers, beginning with the couple that Baird was sponsoring for green cards, Lillian and Victor Cordero. And the number of middle class households hiring nannies and housekeepers began to grow exponentially.

Immigration enforcement of the sort the U.S. has been doing since then doesn’t necessarily mean all undocumented immigrants get deported. It may just make them vulnerable, trapping people in exploitative jobs. One mother of triplets told the New York Times why she wanted to hire someone who was undocumented: “I want someone who cannot leave the country… who doesn’t know anyone in New York, who basically does not have a life. I want someone who is completely dependent on me.” While some households just wanted to employ someone who was reliable and “affordable,” others were abusive and even violent. A 2012 study of household workers in fourteen cities found abysmal working conditions, with many reporting sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. Among live-in nannies, many did not even have their own bed; they were expected to sleep with the children in their care. There was also widespread wage theft, with 67% earning less than minimum wage. While race was also a factor, the single best predictor of how much people got paid was immigration status, with undocumented workers earning the least.

There’s a surprisingly clear case to be made that the Trump administration, for all its sound and fury, is not terribly interested in deporting large numbers of people. It’s not only Donald Trump’s personal history of hiring undocumented workers—the fact that Trump Tower was built by people without papers and that his modeling agency relied on them—it’s also what’s happened since he took office. For one thing, when his transition team discovered that his pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had hired an undocumented household worker—the exact thing Zöe Baird went down for—they didn’t see it as disqualifying. Rather, they had Ross withhold the information until the last minute, in his tightly controlled confirmation hearing. Apparently, the administration was fine with having key positions held by people who were in favor of illegal immigration—at Commerce, at Labor (if they hadn’t been bested by Andrew Pudzer’s critics), and in the Oval Office itself.

Most significantly, the number of deportations under Trump has actually declined, and is on track to be lower than during any year of Obama’s presidency. Arrests and detentions have increased, to be sure. While Obama, the careful lawyer, restricted the actions of ICE to arrest and detain those most likely to be deported, the Trump administration has encouraged aggressive policing, creating terror, and a huge backlog of cases awaiting a hearing in immigration court. “When you go out and you arrest a whole bunch of people willy-nilly [an immigration judge] has got to fill his docket time hearing those arguments,” John Sandweg, acting director of ICE in 2013-14, told Politico. While it’s possible that more judges would mean more deportations, many of the people picked up are later released. In other words, it’s not yet clear whether this is a campaign to make immigrants afraid, or deport them.

This raises a question about all the back and forth about DACA: is the goal really to deport young people, or is it just to raise the flag that the administration is ambivalent about immigrants getting an education and a work permit, instead of remaining part of a permanent underclass of low-paid, illegal workers. One thing is clear: U.S. immigration policy has produced the largest exploitable, deterritorialized labor force since slavery times. Many of them are women, doing “women’s work.” Any effort at immigration reform—whether for the 1 million Dreamers or the estimated 10 million other undocumented immigrants—will have to take account of household and care work. Someone still has to watch the kids.


Laura Briggs is chair and professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to TrumphereRead the first chapter .

Watch Laura discuss her book’s thesis, economics, race, and family on last Sunday’s episode of The Open Mind on PBS.

 


This Is the Republican Party on Reproductive Politics

by Laura Briggs, author of the forthcoming book How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump

The Republicans seem determined to end the availability of basic sexual and reproductive health services. The Senate, by the thinnest of margins, just passed a bill now on the president’s desk that would allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of abortion (for which federal funds already cannot be used), but also birth control, pregnancy tests, free or cheap condoms, HIV and STD testing, breast/chest exams, physical exams, and a host of other health services. If the Senate confirms one other Supreme Court justice (hardly a long shot, with Ruth Bader Ginsberg in poor health at 84), along with its confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned, throwing abortion back to the states to decide. The various versions of the Republican health bill that failed to replace Obamacare eliminated birth control coverage and sharply limited maternity care. Women, along with queer and trans folks, are firmly in the Republican sights.

What’s more, the GOP is loving the optics of white men controlling women’s reproduction. Old-school sexism is back, and it’s a political tactic to consolidate power on the right. It’s a risky strategy, because Republicans need the support of white women in particular to stay in power, a demographic that elected Trump and has leaned right in every presidential election since Bill Clinton’s. In the absence of a vigorous and effective feminist movement, though, it seems to be working.

It used to be that if you wanted to rally the right-wing troops, your misogyny had to be racially coded to mostly exclude white women. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected by campaigning against fraud by (implicitly Black) “welfare queens.” Even though white women and children were those most likely to get benefits from AFDC, Reagan’s welfare queen in the pink Cadillac who cashed her checks at the liquor store played to every stereotype white people had about “inner city” Black folks, and this racist misogyny delighted his followers, who loved to hate Black women. In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson and anti-immigrant activists showed how very useful it could be to hate undocumented immigrant women, and a Proposition 187 campaign targeted all those pregnant women crossing the border, sucking up resources for prenatal care and then demanding seats in public schools for their children. Although 187 was ultimately defeated in court, it won with 59% of the vote, and set off a new wave of immigrant criminalization, detention, and deportation under the Clinton administration that has grown steadily since.

Continue reading “This Is the Republican Party on Reproductive Politics”