Identity Politics a Ticking Time Bomb for Democrats

 

shutterstock_56132851I’ve often thought that I probably couldn’t be a Democrat even if I held liberal policy views. The reason: it’s just too much work. The number of identity-based tripwires you have to navigate on any given day virtually assures you’re going to blow off a limb at some point. As Glenn Reynolds notes in his new USA Today column, the consequences of that trend are now playing out in the intra-Democratic fight over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal:

Right before Obama’s trade bill cratered in the Senate last week, Obama complained that its chief Senate critic, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., didn’t understand the real world. [National Organization for Women President Terry] O’Neill then chalked Obama’s attitude up to sexism.

O’Neill told The Hill she took issue with Obama calling Warren by her first name during an interview with Yahoo News published May 9.

“Yes, I think it is sexist,” O’Neill said. “I think the president was trying to build up his own trustworthiness on this issue by convincing us that Sen. Warren’s concerns are not to be taken seriously. But he did it in a sexist way.”

O’Neill said Obama’s “clear subtext is that the little lady just doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

…The worst aspect of Obama’s presidency has been the willingness of some defenders to characterize any and all criticisms of his policy or style as racist. With Warren (despite her denials) revving up for a potential 2016 presidential campaign — and already with Hillary Clinton’s effort — we’re seeing a new line of argument: That any criticism of a female politician is sexist. Apparently, the only kind of politician you can criticize on the merits in America nowadays is a white male.

Let me make a prediction: as the Democratic Party becomes increasingly dependent on the “Coalition of the Ascendant” that twice propelled Barack Obama to power — a strategy that relies on increasingly appealing to women and racial minorities — it’s longstanding embrace of identity politics is going to make these kind of clashes far more common.

As with most pernicious developments in America, the leading indicator here is California. I’ll develop this argument more fully in a longish piece I’ve got coming out in National Review, but, as Bill notes below, there have been some real tensions in the race for the open Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer. When Kamala Harris jumped into the race earlier this year with a “shock and awe” strategy that involved rolling out tons of big league endorsements, California’s Hispanic Democrats — partially reflecting the fact that Latinos became California’s plurality population last year — took great offense at the fact that they were being marginalized in the race.

At the time, the leading Hispanic prospect was the former Mayor of Los Angeles, human petri dish Antonio Villaraigosa (he’s subsequently decided not to run). When a number of leading Democrats, including Governor Jerry Brown, suggested that Villaraigosa should step aside, the Hispanic bloc began complaining that they were being told to “wait their turn” behind the half-black, half-Tamil Indian Harris. Navigating identity politics, however, is bomb squad work, and they clearly cut the wrong wire.

“I love this theory of a conspiracy, an anointment,” Shawnda Westly, the state Democratic Party’s executive director, said Friday.

“From my vantage point, I’m looking at a statewide elected official who has a strong electoral record … who has a national donor network and who is the only declared candidate and who is announcing endorsements that she has received,” Westly said.

“That is not a conspiracy. That is called effective campaigning. But I guess we only call it that when a man does it.”

What do you do with that if you’re a Republican? You get yourself a nice recliner and some popcorn, that’s what.

Published in General, Politics
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  1. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Or a U-Haul.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Says the heteronormative white male privileged conservative with his intrinsic gender bias.

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Troy, if Obama called her the “chief” critic he was also being racist against Native Americans.

    • #3
  4. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    DocJay:Says the heteronormative white male privileged conservative with his intrinsic gender bias.

    All of those things except sexual orientation are social constructs, Jay.

    • #4
  5. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    The ultimate problem with pushing a politician “who looks like you” is that you want them to favor your people and your concerns. But everyone knows the game, and those who don’t look like you put up their own candidate, because they want the same favors for themselves.

    Instead representing a district, the winner only represents a demographic. The power of a whole district gets reduced to the fraction of what it could have been, and should have been.

    Identity politics is the fastest way to tell most of your constituents that you don’t care about them.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Coolidge
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    The unfortunate reality is that Democrats have been juggling this “time bomb” for at least a century if not longer.  It doesn’t blow up.  They are adept at keeping their coalition together.  I’ve seen it up close in New York.  There may be election cycles where it is more productive than other cycles but they’ve learned to play the game and it’s been fruitful for them.  Sadly I don’t expect it to change.

    • #6
  7. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Something I find sad but interesting is that it appears some constituincies in the Democrat party have given up on being catered to and yet press on for the cause. Liberal Jews know their party will no longer defend Israel, but they continue to give support. Religious African Americans oppose the Homosexual/Alphabet Soup agenda, but have given up on their values being upheld. Actually, it seems African Americans have given up on any policies that truly help their communities for the booby prize of black faces in office.

    • #7
  8. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    This is why the demographics is destiny trope is garbage. It’s also why those who claim that the GOP has to abandon principles, like defending traditional values, are all wet. The key to long term political success is to hew to principles and ideas. The facts of life are conservative and for that reason conservatism that respects the truths of human nature will always be relevant. Tribalism can be effective through opportunistic and temporary alliances, but progressives will never dominate because they deny what our true condition is and rely on unstable, volatile coalitions.

    • #8
  9. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    DocJay:Says the heteronormative white male privileged conservative with his intrinsic gender bias.

    That’s actually changed since the last meeting, you have to add “CIS” in there somewhere or it’s not up to code.

    • #9
  10. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    BThompson:The facts of life are conservative and for that reason conservatism that respects the truths of human nature will always be relevant.

    True, but in times past 30 million people have had to die for reality to assert itself.

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Frank Soto:

    BThompson:The facts of life are conservative and for that reason conservatism that respects the truths of human nature will always be relevant.

    True, but in times past 30 million people have had to die for reality to assert itself.

    One of the facts of life is that conservatism is a losing proposition. People hate the fact that the facts of life are conservative. People spontaneously desire that the facts of life be rather more generous & less punishing.

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @GoldwatersRevenge

    The program provided at the Commencement exercises at UGA contained the following:

    The University of Georgia is committed to the principle of affirmative action and shall not discriminate against otherwise qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental handicap, disability or veterans’ status in its recruitment, admissions, etc., etc.

    The list requiring affirmative action will surely soon include ” drug addiction, criminal record, citizenship, genetic predisposition, eye color, athletic ability, body weight, and species.” Thank you libs for leveling the playing field.

    • #12
  13. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    Tribal ethics don’t scale up well to nation states.  One of the problems is that when a member of tribe A gets into power, he surrounds himself with people he can trust, which generally translates into members of his own tribe.  Tribe A then gets to decide policy and, all too often, live at the expense of the other tribes.  Under these conditions, getting and holding power can literally become a matter of life and death.  When that happens, power shifts are rarely peaceful.

    This has been the day-to-day reality in Africa and the Middle East for a very long time, and the results have been horrific.  It is this reality that the Democratic Party is working to impose on the United States.

    • #13
  14. user_1152 Member
    user_1152
    @DonTillman

    For one thing, I think we need a less euphemistic term than Identity Politics.  Sheeshe!

    • #14
  15. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    I think Glen Reynolds overestimates the problem here.  A Democrat merely has to respect the hierarchy of grievance.  It can change over time, but is really pretty stable.  Here’s my rough estimate:

    Blacks

    Latinos

    LGBT

    Women

    Children

    Asians

    Native Americans

    Animals with fur

    White Men

    Jews

    To be sure, there is some jostling for rank, but clearly NOW was out of line on this dustup, and will soon be put back in its place, like a puppy testing its place in the hierarchy of its litter.

    • #15
  16. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Troy,

    Could the Asians be on verge of setting off the Identity Politics self destruct bomb?

    What Ivy League Affirmative Action Really Looks Like — from the Inside

    Maybe the victim privileged will finally face the music and get what the really deserve.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Not sure why identity politics will not continue to work for the Dems. Basically if a group gets what they want they can thank the Democrats, if they do not get what they want then the blame the Republicans and the Dems can fund raise on it.

    • #17
  18. BThompson Inactive
    BThompson
    @BThompson

    Fake John Galt:Not sure why identity politics will not continue to work for the Dems.Basically if a group gets what they want they can thank the Democrats, if they do not get what they want then the blame the Republicans and the Dems can fund raise on it.

    Because the groups are now fighting with each other. They are eating their own.

    • #18
  19. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    Fake John Galt:Not sure why identity politics will not continue to work for the Dems.Basically if a group gets what they want they can thank the Democrats, if they do not get what they want then the blame the Republicans and the Dems can fund raise on it.

    It’ll “work” until it doesn’t anymore.

    See:  Balmer

    baltimore-riots-10

    • #19
  20. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Troy Senik, Ed.: What do you do with that if you’re a Republican? You get yourself a nice recliner and some popcorn, that’s what.

    You allude to the tensions within the coalition: Muslims hating Jews and gays; blacks hating Asians; Latinos hating blacks…

    The problem is that in order to keep those tensions under control, the left has to fabricate greater tensions. Thus it whips these groups into murderous rage against whites, Jews, Republicans, etc.

    It’s hard to sit in your recliner with popcorn if the President and his minions are telling people to kill  you.

    In addition to defending yourself, you should undertake efforts to break up the coalition.

    • #20
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