Identity politics are — whether we like it or not — a part of today’s politics
After a bruising defeat to a woman in the Democratic Primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders launched into a diatribe against identity politics — that is, “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”
Sanders, in his usual blunt and misguided terms, said, “It’s not enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No that’s not good enough.”
He was obviously still bitter that he lost to Sec. Hillary Clinton. But it should be noted that at no time during the campaign did Clinton ever say, “I’m a woman, vote for me!”
She noted the historic aspect of her potentially becoming the first female president, as she should, but never did she exclusively align her gender has a sole reason to vote for her.
Throughout American politics, you would be hard pressed to ever find a situation in which a minority or a historically oppressed individual say, “I’m [a woman, gay, black, Muslim, trans,] vote for me!” It doesn’t happen.
Minority candidates are all too aware that their differences are already a hurdle to overcome in a political discourse dominated by whites, males and straight people.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t take pride in their differences.
On the contrary, they should exult their pride in overcoming historical boundaries of the status quo and excite their potential constituents that new horizons are taking shape.
There’s no shame in pride, especially when the historically oppressed beat the odds and climb their way to the top.
Representation matters, and it’s important. It can mean the world of a difference to a young child looking for a role model, a hero or an assurance that they too can make it in this world.
It’s no secret that the people who wish to extinguish identity politics from our national discourse are usually white, straight and male, or a combination of the three.
Sanders fits all three.
Take a step back to 2008. Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States. That’s important, and it mattered to a lot of people, black and white.
It was a source of pride for black America and rightfully so. He won reelection with a historic coalition that includes African Americans, Muslims, LGBT, Hispanics and Latinos, young people, Jews, Atheists, etc. A rainbow coalition of all stripes.
It was an identity — because Obama overcame the odds and represented something everyone in that coalition now believed: you can be a proud [African American, queer person, Muslim, etc], embrace it and win it all.
White liberals have essentially given black Americans their “victory lap” after Obama’s historic win in 2008 but are now asking them to sit down and shut up. Conform to economic populism, or go away.
They were prepared to do that to women with regards to Clinton. Identity politics, in Sanders’ view, is not good enough.
They are an inch away from becoming the same people who ignorantly claim black people only voted for Obama because he’s black. Liberals, do not sink to that level. You’re getting dangerously close.
Again, one cannot deny that the people pushing against black, queer and religious pride are white, male and straight. After having 44 representatives in the White House, you’d think they could accept the fact that black people and women would take pride in electing their perspective first presidents.
We expect this kind of pushback from conservatives like Steve King and Joe Walsh, but to have white liberals effectively diminish and silence the pride and identity of one of the largest coalitions in the big-tent Democratic Party is shameful and backwards.
The leading voices of the resistance against President Donald Trump and his band of crony ideologues are women of color like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Senators Kamala Harris and Catherine Cortez-Masto.
Waters is a self described “strong, black woman.” Should we tell her to be quiet?
If white liberals like Sanders are so scared that identity politics will eclipse their message of economic utopia, perhaps they should change their dialogue instead of trying to suppress minority dialogue.
How can white liberals claim they support Black Lives Matter but then turn around and say we should ditch identity politics?
The hypocrisy and platitudes are astounding.
While President Trump rolls back protections for African Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants and LGBT citizens, we cannot afford to relegate them to the back and silence their identity.
We already have a hostile Republican majority doing that, there is no reason why liberals should follow suit.
White liberals: get it together.