It has become a trope among liberals and progressives to note the irony of people from marginalized and minoritized groups supporting far-right politicians and ideologies. Apparently, because minorities are typically targeted by far-right groups, it is incongruous that they could identify with reactionary politics. Jokes are often made about the absurdity of Black Republicans, Latine Trump supporters, and pro-imperialist diasporas.
The incongruity in this situation is dispelled when one rejects the liberal understanding of political alignment as monolithic. Groups of people considered to be “minorities” are not internally undifferentiated. This is something the conservatives among them often point out, even making it their entire identity. But they do not go deep enough in determining the dynamics at play. Usually, they simply attribute it to ideological independence and a refusal to be the cattle of the Democratic Party. In truth, ideology does not fall from heaven. An understanding of ideological tendencies comes by picking apart associated social tendencies.
The primary differentiation within communities which is determinate for ideology lies with class distinctions. It is well known that lower-income people in general tend to support Democrats, and higher income people in general tend to support Republicans. This extends to minorities as well. Aside from the reason that Republicans are more hardline on race and immigration, marginalized groups are usually associated with Democratic politics because they are more likely to be low-income than Euro-Americans. Low-income people tend to vote Democrat because the Democratic Party is less likely to cut social spending than Republicans, and low-income people are more dependent on social spending than high-income people.
Political divisions within marginalized groups are strong within groups that have sharper internal class distinctions. For example, Asians and Latines have the greatest internal income gap of any other ethnic minorities, and compared to other groups have the greatest share of Republican voters. This tendency is strengthened by US immigration policy, as while many Latine and Southeast Asian migrants become super exploited agricultural and service workers, US immigration policy is designed to favor migration of professionals and bourgeoisie.
This policy has significant mass support among USAmericans, who believe this improves the “stock” of the country. Higher-income minorities are more likely to fixate on typical right-wing economic positions like cutting taxes, reducing social spending, and segregating working class people from professionals and bourgeoisie, as represented by the conservative fixation on wailing about low-income housing in suburbia.
South Asian and East Asian migrants are more likely to have higher education, an indicator of higher class status, whereas Mexican and Central American migrants have a majority of high school education or less. The former reflects the US’s growing import of professionals, especially in the realm of IT skills to man Silicon Valley’s growing share of the economy. These immigrants are generally more likely to be conservative as a result, as mentioned earlier. By contrast, the use of super-exploitable Mexican and Latin American laborers has been a practice since about the 1930s, becoming solidified with the 1942–1965 Bracero program for guest workers. Growers in particular use the labor of these migrants owing to their cheapness, experience with agriculture owing to rural backgrounds, and ease of disposal out of the country by immigration enforcement or voluntary repatriation when their labor-power is not needed.
Though this group of migrants is more likely to embrace radical politics than the former owing to their average class composition, being working class is not a guarantee that migrants will become left-wing. Many migrants buy into the idea of the American Dream to avoid confronting the painful realities of what has come of their efforts to come to the US. They do not want to cause trouble or appear ungrateful. Further, there are other machinations at play.
When one enjoys a higher standard of living, they are more likely to support the country they are living in. Class is a powerful determinant factor for who buys into the American project the most, supports right-wing policies, and is the most concerned with respectability. These typically petit-bourgeois and professional people within marginalized communities usually become power brokers, as we’ve discussed previously.
They promote Americanism within their community, whether through the machines of political parties or Non-Governmental Organizations, which are tax-exempt private organizations which typically engage in actions relating to particular issues. There is a reason demographics which either lack or have very little of this middle strata tend to support more radical politics. For example, Black people are the poorest ethnic demographic in the US, and Black working class people have been at the forefront of this country’s progressive politics. Class is often the most powerful factor in determining political affiliation. Marginalized communities are majority working clas. But at the same time, there is varying internal class distinctions within marginalized communities.
Earlier, we mentioned class distinctions among particular demographics as influenced by migration. Migration is also a powerful factor in political ideology. People do not drop the histories of their home countries and currents of community affiliation and ideology once they enter the US. In fact, their home countries are usually at the front of their minds, even as they live in the US. Many of them have families back home, usually people that they are in frequent contact with. Migrants usually spend their formative years in ideological terms in their home countries. It is not uncommon for people to stick by those affiliations even in very different contexts. Even children born to migrants in the US pick up their parents’ alignments, as the political perspective of one’s parents and by extension their communities is a strong factor in one’s own positions.
To use a specific example, Christian minorities from Muslim-majority countries, such as Assyrians and Copts, who face religious persecution in their native lands, carry such concerns with them to the US. When they come here, they see both liberals and socialists speaking of all Christians as if they are oppressive Evangelicals, whereas Evangelical Republicans are essentially the only group which even pay attention to the oppression of Christian minorities. As a result, many Christian minorities align with Republicans with an eye to their homelands.
The manner in which US progressives approach Islam is also a major factor for these marginalized groups. Euro-American leftists generally assume that the dynamic of Muslim diasporas and European-style Christianity, wherein Islamophobia is the norm, extends to the entire world. In fact, in West Asia and North Africa, Islam is the status quo, and by extension is at play in oppression of marginalized groups, just as European Christianity is in the West. By casting Islam as eternally progressive against homogenous Christian oppressors, Western progressives lose nuance, and potential for being a home to marginalized Christian diasporas and other marginalized groups who are justifiably critical of Islam. Christian minorities, ex-Muslims, and SWANA feminists are often alienated from Western progressives by their Eurocentric and cultural relativist approach.
Some progressives hyper fixate on the dynamics of the US or at most the West, failing to develop a mature international analysis. At best, they see the world in the terms of the US. Euro-American colonialism and imperialism are understood to completely level the historical currents of the non-Western world. With collective Western or white guilt for xenophobia, Western progressives bleat ignorance and aggravating excuses to minorities from Muslim-majority countries, even going so far as to blame them for both their own oppression and Western Islamophobia. As a result, marginalized SWANA diaspora see Western reactionaries as their natural allies.
People gravitate towards what immediately concerns them. While that is consistently class interests (thus why issues of social programs and the economy figure at the forefront of voter concerns), there are also issues of community and international concerns, in particular for migrants. They will vote for reactionaries if they believe they care about them, thus why some Christian diasporas often vote for Republicans. Many voters don’t actually agree with every stance a party takes. People affiliate to parties based on their immediate concerns, and then will usually begin to buy into the whole bundle as party affiliation becomes more important to their identity.
Owing to how US politics work, parties create coalitions around various issues, with broad overlap, but not perfect unity. More than anything, the two parties in the US function as unification around a core of capitalist interests and leadership. Both parties have very wealthy leadership, with office holders being statistically far more likely to be in the small minority of rich people in this country. The function of each of the two parties is to tie the masses to capitalist politicians and bourgeois interests, and the two-party system serves to exclude independent political movements and third parties. The Founding Fathers, in particular the Federalists, explicitly designed this country’s political system to reproduce the class power of the bourgeoisie and preclude the political power of the proletariat.
Socialists cannot continue to have a liberal approach towards marginalized reactionaries. We must keep class at the forefront, remembering the central importance of class distinctions in a manner wherein we first account for the racialized division of labor, and then account for the importance of class distinctions and immediate concerns within marginalized communities. Our goal is not to come into these communities as outsiders, but for the socialist movement to be one with the radical currents of the entire working class, in particular those of colonized peoples and diasporas. We must emphasize the importance of breaking off the strength of the middle strata power brokers and asserting an independent political body against the bourgeois two-party system. While the bourgeoisie of these communities cannot be won over, the proletariat and some segments of the petit-bourgeoisie can.
As mentioned earlier, people are concerned with the issues which affect them and their kin first and foremost. Many socialists think of this in terms of a simple model of class. That is, working class people all think the same and bourgeoisie all think the same. This is inaccurate because there are distinctions within the classes and various concerns of these classes. Approaching the proletariat as a homogeneous mass is not a path toward revolutionary politics. Instead, accounting for difference and determining where common interests lie is the means of forging a mass movement.
Socialists cannot win the respect of the masses, link up with their ebbs and flows, their tides in rebellions and class struggles, if they are not in line with the concerns of the masses. Childish and unnuanced behavior such as anti-Christianity, generalization, and “colorblind” class-first politics are not a means of building a movement. Generalization and abstraction are only tools, and not a replacement for thorough analysis of history and social reality. Developing a global, historically-minded analysis is a means of connecting to the people who are the living bodies of that world history.
Socialists must take seriously the issue of understanding the lives of the people we wish to serve so we can successfully serve them and be recognized as their representatives. Historical practice has shown clumsy generalization and colorblindness to be failures in approaching revolutionary politics. The rebirth of socialism must be a rebirth which remembers the lessons of the practical experiences and mistakes of past socialists. By benefiting from these lessons, as well as those we learn along the way, we put ourselves on the right track to a viable revolutionary movement.