Why the Right Loves Privilege Politics

Kilpatrick, Connor
Publisher:  Jacobin
Year Published:  2015
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX17495

The Right deploys privilege politics to avoid class politics, obscuring where the real power lies in our society.



With conservative politics, there’s a consistent logic. And a huge part of it is an attack on what they see as a series of unjust and unfair “privileges” being protected by a liberal state.

For decades, the conservative movement has taken advantage of the malaise of the labor movement in order to turn wage earners against unionized workers. With their hard-won benefits and higher wages, unionized workers are, after all, “privileged” members of the working class.


notice how confident conservatives are that framing issues in terms of “privilege” will always go their way — the diminishment of Medicaid, the defunding of the welfare state — and never towards a solidaristic politics of single-payer. Funny how that works.

Sometimes, the Right will even go across the globe to turn the immiserated American poor into just another privileged class. Whenever they want to dismiss shocking new stats on American poverty, how do they do it? They quickly juxtapose the American poor against the impoverished in less developed countries.

“The US poor are privileged!” they say. After all, they have cable television, cell phones, refrigerators. These are all things that the poor elsewhere lack — so, really, is capitalism and wealth inequality that much of a problem?

Ask yourself: is this not, essentially, the same argument as the “first world problems” meme so beloved by progressives?

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