We Are Witnessing the Failure of Identity Politics


Troy’s thought-provoking post the other day on the laughable claim that the Democrats were on the verge of a 40 year ascendency got me thinking about the calamitous state of the Democratic party after the midterms. They have brought this catastrophe upon themselves by embracing identity politics in a country fundamentally concerned with issues.

Image: Siege of Sparta by Pyrrhus

For all the talk of the Democratic Party’s inevitable and permanent demographic victory — forged in the politics of identity from the 2008 and 2012 elections — and how these demographic changes will make it impossible for Republicans to win elections in the future, we are also witnessing cracks in the Democratic coalition’s minority voters, and significant hand-wringing and internal strife within the party. They aren’t handling defeat well.

This is due to the fact that they have embraced identity politics to win elections for the past few election cycles instead of addressing the core that concern voters. The victories brought about by identity politics were Pyrrhic at best, and we all remember how quickly the Democrats’ victory in 2008 turned into 2010.

The allegiance of the minority groups within the party, especially that of blacks, may finally start to erode. Additional defeats will further weaken this coalition and make the constituent minority groups more willing to entertain Republican candidates. These are not indicators that Republicans will win majorities of these votes anytime soon, but savvy Republicans can appeal to many of these voters sincerely, and successfully in 2016, on the issues. The candidates willing to reach out to these minority groups — disaffected by the failure of the Democratic party to deliver on issues — will put key state wide races in play during a presidential election year.

Even opposition to comprehensive immigration reform will not hurt Republicans; in fact it probably made this midterm even more favorable for them. Mikey Kaus points out that the overwhelming majority of those who supported the gang of 8’s senate immigration bill have gotten the axe, and those that didn’t hung on by a thread. Immigration was a big issue this election, but not the way the Democrats wanted: even Oregon voted 2-1 to reject driver’s licenses for illegals in a referendum. No one got any points for supporting comprehensive reform, and nearly everyone who did suffered from it.

Even the War on Women failed to deliver. Sandra Fluke’s loss is particularly interesting in that she lost to another Democrat, which tells us a little about how the party feels about itself internally. Think about it this way: the standard-bearer of the War on Women got smashed nearly 2-1 at the polls by liberal California Democrats.

But it’s a mid-term, you might say, and that favors Republicans; the identity-based coalition will be back in 2016. While it’s important to avoid the mistake that our friends on the left made when they heralded the end of the Republican party in 2012, the simple fact of the matter is that this election was a body-blow to identity politics. Though it can produce short-term victories, it can’t provide long-term success when there are serious issues on the table nationally.

So what do you think? There are a lot of tea leaves to read, but the all tell the same story to me.

There are 6 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum

    Amen, JW!

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member

    Age Trends In US Elections

    • #2
  3. user_357321 Inactive

    And both of those age categories voted more Republican than they did in 2012.  In fact in every demographic the Republicans made measurable gains from 2012.

    • #3
  4. user_75648 Thatcher

    Jordan–you make some decent arguments for identify politics to be a reduced factor in the future.  I hope you’re correct.

    N.B. I’m trying very hard to avoid the 2012 mistake that our friends on the left made after they heralded the end of the Republican party, etc. etc.

    Astute point.

    <Devil’s advocate mode>  If I had to make the case why 2014 is going to be a freak then I would state:

    In 2014 the Democrats–as a party–were so dysfunctional that the GOP received a number of votes it shouldn’t have gotten.   That said, these Dem voters were holding their nose when they voted for the GOP.  They will return to the Dems just as soon as it appears to safe to vote for for the Democrats again.

    </Devil’s advocate mode>

    My sense is that identify politics/war on women/race baiting/etc. is losing effectiveness. I suspect the GOP is going to peel off some of these voters and is going to keep them.

    • #4
  5. RobininIthaca Inactive

    I am optimistic that if Republicans stay on task when speaking with voters and in interviews – focusing on the economy and how conservative policies raise all boats, then identity politics will become a non issue.  Eventually, voters will ask the other side, “How do your policies help me?”

    • #5
  6. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Republicans should ask, “Will Hillary help women the way President Obama helped blacks?” And follow-up with the campaign slogan —

    Republican candidate name: For all Americans!

    • #6
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.