Identity Politics Blurs Our Real Issues

By: Todd Smekens

Muncie, Indiana BLOG – What in the world is “identity politics” and why does it matter? For the Grand Ole Party, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. For Trump, he apparently wants to be identified as a racist, sexist, xenophobic nationalist. For the Democratic Party, it’s been everything. It’s also why they’ve been losing and handed over the angry working class to Trump after he made lots of promises designed to benefit the collapsing Middle Class. So far, he’s reneged on every promise. Think social liberalism versus economic populism. One is approved and endorsed by large, wealthy donors – the other is not.

According to Brihana Joy Gray:

Yet there are risks to viewing the world through the prism of identity. If people are defined by their demographic characteristics, they can be reduced to those characteristics in a way that obscures differences within groups. If “identity” becomes synonymous with “perspective,” dissenting members within the identity group risk having their viewpoints erased and their humanity diminished. And when used cynically, as a political weapon, a simplistic view of identity can allow people of a particular political faction to wrongly imply that they speak for all members of their racial or gender group.

The new DNC chairperson, Tom Perez, recently posted on Twitter:

Let’s be clear, the donors to the Democratic National Party could care less about the needs of “black women.” They could also care less about the working class or any other group which doesn’t increase shareholder value. The rich getting richer hasn’t been an accident since both capitalistic political parties cater to the Donor Class. For the #DNC, it’s been their downfall.

Tom Perez will not repeat Bernie Sanders’ economic populism message — it flies contrary to his donors. Catering to blacks, gays, women, veterans, students, etc. (identity politics) is okay. However, discussing class warfare which has marginalized all those social groups is off limits.

Since the early 90’s, one of the Democratic Party’s primary role in the United States has been to co-opt and obstruct social movements from the left. Trump’s racist fervor has caused serious protests from women and minorities

The Elite Media employs the same strategy. They can write plenty of articles and talk about social movements, but talking about class warfare is forbidden in the United States of Capitalism. It would offend advertisers.

I responded to Tom’s Tweet and then experienced the wrath of #DNC loyalists – defenders of identity politics. Because I am “an old white male,” there is no way I can “comprehend what single black females go through.” Obviously. Hillary Clinton used these attacks toward Bernie Sanders, and they backfired. Wedge politics within the #DNC is like playing a bad hand in poker.

Conor Lynch captures this well in his recent article at Salon:

Ultimately, Clinton and other corporate Democrats were trying to muddy the waters with these disingenuous arguments in order to create a false tension between economic populism and social liberalism. Only a straight white male like Sanders, the logic went, could become so fixated on economic issues like income and wealth inequality, because he did not experience racism, sexism or homophobia on a daily basis. This argument was based not only on a cynical version of identity politics that gave greater importance to a candidate’s race or gender than his or her politics, but on a false dilemma between class politics and identity politics. Furthermore, it implied that the social democratic policies advocated by Sanders — e.g., Medicare for All, raising taxes on the wealthy, increasing the minimum wage, strengthening Social Security, defending labor unions, etc. — would disproportionately benefit white males.

In other words, Clinton was distracting followers from the economic issues because she has a horrible record on hurting the working class — she has long catered to the Washington and Wall Street Elite. In fact, the DNC caters to the same group of donors. Her speeches to Wall Street for $500,000 a pop were a sore spot with progressives, so she needed a major distraction. #EpicFailure during the rise of economic populism.

Once again, the point of narrowing the discussion to social matters and identity politics is a distraction from economic issues. Why is this so necessary for the Donor Class and the politicians they own?

Conor nailed this point as well.

That economic justice and racial justice are deeply intertwined was given further credence last week when a new study was released by the Institute for Policy Studies revealing that median black household wealth in the United States will fall to zero by 2053 if current trends continue, while the median white household wealth is on path to climb to $137,000.

“By 2020 median Black and Latino households stand to lose nearly 18% and 12% of the wealth they held in 2013, respectively, while median White household wealth increases 3%,” write the authors. “At that point — just three years from now — White households are projected to own 85 times more wealth than Black households and 68 times more wealth than Latino households.”

Politicians and their donor class do NOT want Americans discussing income and wealth inequality. They don’t want Americans or the media talking about the Neoliberal class warfare our country has been undergoing since the 1980’s. The policies supported by both political parties have created our economic messes, AND it’s intentional. Arguing about the #TakeAKnee protests by NFL players is perfectly safe.

U.S. citizens have two capitalistic political parties to choose from – neither of which supports the working class. Both parties are owned and controlled by the economic elite. Albert Einstein told us this in the 40’s, and it’s got much worse. Liberated Americans seek out a party to address corporate oppression, but the role of the Democratic Party is to quash economic movements like Occupy, and the GOP has always been the party of corporate power.

I will be writing much more about identity politics in the coming months as we prepare for 2018 elections along with rapid developments in Washington. Yesterday, Ball State University was blessed by a visit from Angela Davis who famously said:

I believe profoundly in the possibilities of democracy, but democracy needs to be emancipated from capitalism. As long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality, economic equality will elude us.


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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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