All Republicans Have is Identity Politics

Donald Trump put an exclamation point on his closing argument Wednesday when he tweeted this:

According to CNN, the video was “produced by Jamestown Associates for the Trump campaign for the midterms and was designed to fit into Trump’s broader immigration push and to change the argument from ‘family unification to invasion.'” Apparently there are no plans to air the video on television, perhaps because of it’s reliance on bleeped expletives.

In its raw appeal to racist fear-mongering, this one makes George H.W. Bush’s use of the Willie Horton ad look almost tame by comparison and clearly harkens back to the moment when Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists. Now the president is adding that Democrats are the ones who let these dangerous criminals into the country and warning of similar things from the so-called “invasion” of migrants heading towards our southern border.

With his demonization of those migrants and his latest attacks on the constitutional provision of birthright citizenship, what we are witnessing is that the entire closing argument for Republicans in these 2018 midterm elections is nothing more than a racist appeal to identity politics, which Adam Serwer defines as “a politics based in appeals to the loathing of, or membership in, a particular group.”

Steve Bannon may be having trouble drawing crowds to the screenings of his latest movie about Trump, but the president’s former campaign manager’s vision of a Republican Party that proudly embraces its white nationalist appeal rather than relegating it to dog whistles has come to fruition.

In his piece on the Republican Party’s embrace of identity politics Serwer writes:

Underlying the American discourse on identity politics has always been the unstated assumption that, as a white man’s country, white identity politics—such as that practiced by Trump and the Republican Party—is legitimate, while opposition to such politics is not. For Americans whose Americanness is considered conditional, accepting this implicit racial hierarchy is the only praiseworthy or acceptable reaction. When armed agents of the state gun down innocent people in the street, when the president attempts to ban people from entering the U.S. based on their faith, or when the administration shatters immigrant families, these are burdens that religious and ethnic minorities must bear silently as the price of their presence in the United States.

That is the lens through which we must view the discussion about identity politics in this country today. Ever since the adoption of the Southern Strategy by Republicans, the question for Democrats hasn’t been whether to embrace or reject identity politics. It’s always been about making the moral choice to reject this racial hierarchy and go about building a coalition strong enough to defeat the white identity politics on the right. For an example of how that’s done, take a look at Andrew Gillum’s closing argument.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.