The Superficiality of Identity Politics

While a lot of political pundits are wringing their hands over the future of white working/middle class voters, at least Chris Cillizza recognizes that there is another question on the table for the 2016 presidential election:

The central question facing Clinton, the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, and the legion of former Obama consultants advising her this time around is whether they can turn the Obama coalition into a Democratic coalition.

But in attempting to answer that question, Cillizza’s analysis is lacking. That’s because he relies only on superficial assumptions tied to what we often call “identity politics.” In other words, African Americans overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama because he’s black and women will vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s female. It all reminds me of how angry a lot of black women got at the race vs gender assumptions in the 2008 Democratic primary.

The end game of this kind of superficiality is demonstrated by Republican tokenism in presenting us with candidates like Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, and Marco Rubio on the assumption that we’re all that simple-minded.

We’ve still got a lot of work to do on race and gender in this country. The end game we should be shooting for is what David Simon described.

America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions.

Show me a candidate who can do that and – regardless of what race or gender they happen to be – I guarantee you they’ll turn out the Obama coalition.

P.S. Doing what Simon described is much harder than most people think.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.