The Rejection of Identity Politics
Amidst the ubiquitous noise, protest, and propaganda proliferating the country’s digestion (or indigestion) of the 2016 election results, it has been challenging for many of us to elevate our reflection high enough above the fray to wrap our brains around, and articulate, exactly how, and why, we are both proud and excited about not just the results of the 2016 election, but about what those results say about America.
The Rejection of Identity Politics is the first in my Inspired & Optimistic series of reflections on why we should be both inspired by the 2016 election and optimistic about what the future holds under a Trump Administration and beyond.
“How could you support Donald Trump?”, my predominantly liberal friends and family ask. “This election was never about Donald Trump”, I fire back (though the progressive liberals and the mainstream media tried desperately to make it so). For me, the 2016 election was about, among other things, a complete and total rejection of identity politics.
One candidate, and her party, with unprecedented collusion from the mainstream media, sought to define voters, voter preferences, issues that matter, and corresponding policy solutions by race, gender, sexual preference, and ethnicity, among others. Theirs was a “check the box” campaign strategy and governing philosophy that presumed African Americans vote as African Americans, Latinos as Latinos, women as women, LGBTQ as LGBTQ, and a message and policy prescription that has less to do with America than it does about ensuring a winning percentage of each voting bloc (the very presumption that these are voting blocs is offensive and bigoted in itself). The candidate, and the party, of “check the box” identity politics was deliberate and transparent in offering voters nothing more than bald assertions that they are the party “for all Americans”(and the evil corollary that those with opposing views are, must be, racists, misogynists, and other “deplorables”).
The other candidate was Donald Trump. Rather than adhere to a platform defined by his, or any other, political party, he offered a pragmatic, populist approach to government based on issues rather than identity. Trump’s campaign suggested (brazenly!) that Americans’ thirst for and aspirations toward a strong economy, better schools, better jobs, safe streets, safe borders, a constitutional government, and a rooting out of the corruption of power actually transcend race, gender, sexual preference, and ethnicity.
I, for one, am proud to know that Americans chose to reject and transcend identity politics.
The evidence of this, and of the absurd hypocrisy of identity politics, is too overwhelming and abundant to enumerate here. I imagine a multitude of entire books will be written as post-mortems in this vein. Indeed, evidence of the hypocrisy of identity politics continues to pile up by the day in the aftermath of November 8.
But for a strong, simple, and irrefutable example, consider the following:
Of the 676 counties that TWICE voted for Barack Obama for President in 2008 and 2012, 209 of those counties (roughly 1/3) flipped to Donald Trump in 2016. Of the additional 207 counties that voted for Obama once, either in 2008 or 2012, 194 of them, or 94%, voted for Trump in 2016. These “flipped” counties include many that tipped the scales of the popular vote in Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan, and collectively accounted for over 83 electoral votes according to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/obama-trump-counties/)
The purveyors of identity politics are quick to point out that these counties are 81% white, in support of their false and venomous narrative of a “white supremacist” or “white nationalist” Trump electorate. But the American people are neither stupid enough nor racist enough to buy this narrative.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of people in these counties, regardless of their race, voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 regardless of his race. They voted for him because he inspired them with a populist appeal from outside the beltway and a promise of hope and change.
These same people, in 2016, did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016 because they suddenly became vile racists or deplorable misogynists. Nice try. No, they voted for Trump for exactly the same reasons they voted for Obama. This time, it was Donald Trump that inspired them with a populist appeal from outside the beltway and a promise of hope and change. After 8 years, Obama and his party failed to deliver. They came up empty. That does not make their victims racists, regardless of the color of their skin.
And the so-called “female vote”? Yes, Hillary Clinton won 54% of women – less than the 55% Obama won in 2012. And yes, only 42% of women voted for Donald Trump (surely racists and misogynists, all!) But identity politics is never actually about the identity – it’s all about the politics. That is why we rarely, if ever, see, hear, or read much celebration of womens’ achievement, individually or collectively, unless it is in the context of progressive, liberal women. But Hillary Clinton’s message of entitlement, and of “breaking the glass ceiling” – that it was her turn, her time, because she had earned it – wasn’t even about women. It was about woman. One woman.
If the race- and gender-baiters of identity politics actually cared about women and their collective advancement, they would certainly be emboldened by, among other things, the grand orchestrator of the the greatest political upset in history. Kellyanne Conway is one of the most impressive people I have ever seen in the political arena, or any other for that matter. I have seen little to no fanfare celebrating her achievement as the first woman to ever successfully manage an American Presidential campaign to victory. No “glass ceiling there”? Or just no Hillary.
The voters sent a strong message on what was and was not important to them. Remember the infamous “It’s the economy, stupid”? Perhaps an appropriate modification for the 2016 election is “It’s the economy, not race and gender, stupid.” The distinguished journalist (and Democrat) Thomas Friedman recently acknowledged as much when he said the following on Meet the Press:
“I watched the Democratic Convention. They had women, they had blacks, they had gays, they had transgender, they even had a dwarf . . . There’s one thing they didn’t have: an entrepreneur. Somebody who is a risk-taker. Somebody who says I am here to grow the pie, not just to redistribute it.”
The 2016 American election did not just prove the perversion and ineffectiveness of identity politics. The 2016 American electorate completely and totally rejected identity politics.
Note to progressives: stop the pandering, and stop insulting America. Of course there is real evil in the world, and racism, sexism, and any other hurtful “ism’s” are cancers on a civilized society that can and should be rooted out. But by assigning these labels willy-nilly to everything and anybody that does not comport with a liberal, progressive, redistributive world view, you cheapen and detract from legitimate efforts that target the real thing.
OPPORTUNITY: The Promise of a Pragmatic and Inclusive Non-ideological Coalition
REPUDIATION: The 2016 Referendum on Ideological Overreach and Abuse of Executive Power
EXPOSING “The Big Con” : The Dishonest Media, The “Inclusion Illusion”, The Corruption of Power, and Redefining the “1%”