Identity politics: The Democrats’ downfall?
“For the Democrats, no activity is immune from reflexive accusations of sexism and racism,” said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. “Not even soul searching.” Since the election, a few liberals have spoken out against the party’s “self-limiting” obsession with identity politics—and they’ve all been angrily shouted down. Sen. Bernie Sanders was castigated for pointing out that Democrats won’t win votes simply by saying: “I’m a woman! Vote for me!” Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan argued that his party shouldn’t divide the electorate up into aggrieved groups—a point that was illustrated perfectly when a left-wing writer accused him of “sexism” for mounting a challenge against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Meanwhile, a thoughtful essay by Columbia professor Mark Lilla on American liberalism’s “moral panic” over race, gender, and sexual identity sparked a moral panic of its own, “focused overwhelmingly on how Lilla is, in fact, himself a white male.” Will Democrats ever be able to “quit identity politics”?
Liberals are right not to change course, said Lovia Gyarkye in NewRepublic.com. We focus on race, gender, and sexuality because these issues don’t exist in a vacuum, and they are “inextricably linked” to broader societal challenges. “How can we talk about class without recognizing that the poorest Americans are often people of color?” Can we really discuss “the common good” without acknowledging that women, blacks, and LGBT people are still “treated as outsiders?” Democrats should definitely “champion the interests of working people,” said Michelle Goldberg in Slate.com, but not if it requires abandoning others whose freedoms and rights are under threat. With President Trump in the Oval Office—and Jeff Sessions, “a racist opponent of the Voting Rights Act,” as his attorney general—the “dark years ahead” will be those when minorities and other targeted groups need our support the most.
Even if the Democratic Party wanted to change tack, its supporters wouldn’t allow it, said Daniel Payne in TheFederalist.com. “After decades of aggressive identity politicking,” many liberals won’t take kindly to being asked to cool their rhetoric on racial injustice or gender identities— particularly Millennials, who have never known any different. And abandoning identity politics will become even harder under Trump, the Left’s bogeyman on pretty much all these issues. For moderate Democrats, even “subtle rhetorical reform” would be a massive “uphill battle.”