How Identity Politics Hurts Democrats

I heard a radio report about Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Cal.) declaring her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Asked why she’s running, virtually the first word in reply was “LGBTQ.” Then “Blacks,” “women,” etc.

And I was like, Stop! Please! Enough already!

This is why Democrats are struggling even against a Republican party steeped in lies. Which too many voters fail to see. While seeing Democrats as culturally in la-la land, rather than representing their interests. A case Republicans relentlessly push, with all their “woke mob” rhetoric.

Look, I love it that gays, women, Blacks, and other such groups are being mainstreamed. But harping on that kind of group identity politics turns off many voters, making them feel Democrats are not a party for everyone. Even if not actively hostile toward gays and trans people, they’re made uncomfortable by so much emphasis on that stuff. It feels like the tail wagging the dog.

So President Biden should not have pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. The appointment itself was great — just go ahead and do it — but the advance pledge needlessly made it seem more like racial pandering than about her merits. Governor Hochul similarly stressed the Latino ethnicity of her choice for Chief Judge, another instance of in-your-face identity politics.

Blacks and Latinos would be better served if such appointments were considered routine, which in point of fact they now are, rather than oohed and aahed over as if we were still in a benighted past epoch when they were breakthroughs.

True, it’s not as though discrimination and racism are longer concerns. Republicans, for all their lip-service to more enlightened views, still coddle prejudices. Meantime many of them deeply resent feeling they’re seen as bigots. They don’t think they are. That may be arguable, but never mind for now. Those feelings are exacerbated by Democrats continually harping on LGBTQ-this and people-of-color-that. It was not incidental that Nikki Haley, in announcing her presidential candidacy, made a point of insisting America is not a racist country. Telling her putative Republican supporters: you’re not racist. While Democrats seem to broadcast a contrary vibe. (Recall Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.”)

It doesn’t help them win votes. And their failing to win enough elections hurts anti-discrimination causes. Voting rights legislation, to name one, can’t pass because enough Republicans get elected to block it.

Whereas Republicans used to be the fatcat party, and Democrats the plebeian party, that has been turned upside down. Republicans have aggressively courted people with economic grievances (even while actually doing precious little for them), and Democrats are increasingly the party of the educated intelligentsia — a class Republicans demonize, with great resonance for voters who feel themselves screwed and looked down upon by that elite. Which is farther to the left than are many less affluent and ethnic minority voters. GOP immigrant-bashing resonates too, even with Hispanics who may feel no solidarity with new migrants who they (wrongly) fear threaten their own economic advancement.

Barbara Lee may be a worthy public servant. But I wish, in declaring her candidacy, she’d tried making it about what a broad mass of down-to-earth mainstream voters — especially less educated working class white voters — who Trump and company play like fiddles — really care about.


4 Responses to “How Identity Politics Hurts Democrats”

  1. Lee Says:

    Republicans appeal to the rural white Christian identity group and Democrats appeal to a wide variety of identity groups — including multiple races, multiple sexual genders and orientations, and multiple types of religious and areligious followers.

    The Republicans seem to be doing quite well pushing identity politics with rural white Christian voters, but you are advising the Democrats to not follow suit. Is it because voters of one identity will be turned off if a Democratic candidate acknowledges that she considers it important to represent multiple identities?

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. Yes, Republicans don’t seem to be penalized for THEIR identity politics, whereas Democrats are.

  3. Roger Says:

    Biden announcing his SCOTUS choice was saying, “I fulfilled my campaign promise.” One could make the case he shouldn’t have made the promise, but that’s another story. Yes, Barbara Lee is a good and fierce politician, though if I could vote in the CA election (which I can’t), my first choice would be Katie Porter.

  4. Takunda Antipas Says:

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