When I recently asked Mike Gonzalez in an interview what new constituency leftist supporters of identity politics would start pandering to next, he pressed me “not to let the imagination run wild, lest we give them ideas.”
His quip spoke to that movement’s drive to socially engineer a fractured map of ever-smaller subnational communities, but one could have mistaken Gonzalez’s humorous cynicism for genuine prudence. His plea “not to let the imagination run wild,” if heeded by the movement’s Marxist forebears, would have meant a world of difference to today’s America. For if one thing has fueled identity politics, it is a wild imagination. Gonzalez’s The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free is the best account yet of the deep ideological wells from which identity politics springs. The story begins in 1928, when Mussolini’s regime sentenced a young Antonio Gramsci, then the leader of the Communist Party in Italy, to 20 years in prison, hoping to “stop his mind from ever working again,” in the prosecutor’s own words. Imprisonment instead afforded him a quiet retreat to refashion Marxism for the future, birthing a brand of it that endures at the core of American society to this day in the form of identity politics.