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  • Identity-Politics Insanity

    Posted by Shannon Love on August 30th, 2008 (All posts by )

    Much as I am grateful for any phenomenon that might keep the U.S. Presidency out of the hands of extreme leftists, I can’t help but think that these women have gone completely identity-politics insane. 

    A presidential election should turn on issues of character and policy. These women know next to nothing about Palin except her sex. One cannot imagine substantial policy overlap between her and Clinton. Yet, it looks like potentially significant numbers of Clinton supporters might jump ship just so they can support a woman! 

    Budda wept! Why the hell is it so damn important to so many people that the president looks like them? I can only deduce that people see the president as a cultural proxy of sorts, and when the proxy has a position of high status then the people who resemble the proxy in some way do as well. It’s like people who riot when the local sports team wins or who commit suicide when they lose. They actually feel that the fortunes of the team in some way reflect their own. 

    I worry about the long-term effects of this identity mania. I fear that a few decades down the road, America will blow apart like a cracked centrifuge. People need to stop ego-identifying with politicians and instead treat them like untrustworthy temp hires. 

    We’d all be happier. 

    [h/t Instapundit]

     

    17 Responses to “Identity-Politics Insanity”

    1. Brian Says:

      Why the hell is it so damn important to so many people that the President looks like them?

      People like to be led by people they identify with. It’s easier to identify with someone who looks like you, or has an experience in common with you.

      This is not something unique to Americans; it’s a very human thing.

    2. Helen Says:

      OK, I am probably going to put my foot in it and expect all sorts of people to tell me that. I am not American but I have been interested in American politics for a very long time and had a father who was fascinated by it. One of the first things I remember hearing in my teens was that a ticket had to be balanced. So, if the presidential candidate was, say, from the North-East, the Veep had to be from the South. And vice versa. That’s one example. There are others. To me that is identity politics, too. Geographical or social identity rather than gender or race, but identity, nonetheless. And no, it is not unique to America but because of the sort of country America is, more prevalent and more clearly defined in people’s minds.

      Go on, shoot me down.

    3. jdm Says:

      Helen, I can’t see that you wrote anything wrong. You’ve simply shown, as did Brian, that identity politics has always been practiced at some level.

      I wonder then. It seems that traditional identity groups would have been large, semi-amorphous groups that most people could easily join. It also seems that the genius of the left, politically speaking, was to create smaller, more well-defined, less generally accessible groups that are, most importantly, more easily managed.

      But now, in the O! phase, we see those groups in genuine competition with overlapping allegiances and vicious internecine conflicts. Interesting times.

      Man, there’s so many directions to go with this. Did identity groups worked better when it was “white guys” managing them? How and who arrives at the group importance rankings? Why do some groups happily know their place and not fight?

    4. Fast Eddie Says:

      Why focus on gender? Or ethnicity? They are present in this race, but garner too much attention from an indiscriminate public and a pandering media.

      How about these factors:
      Pro-life (visibly), a governmental chief executive (only one of four with that credential), conservative Christian (oops, an identity factor), a Blue Star parent, a commander of military forces which have been involved in the War on Terror, a proponent of realistic energy independence, an environmentalist, a pro-2d Amendment voice, a union family, a successful policy maker, an ethics reformist…need I go on?

      Yes, she’s a woman and yes that will capture the feminist mouth-breather votes of a few, but she’s also a great contrast to the ticket-topper of the other side. A living breathing demonstration of the difference between achievements and rhetoric.

      The dark side needs to get away from the “Ready on Day One” cliche as well. Their guy seeks the job he isn’t prepared for. My VP candidate serves an apprenticeship first. I like the concepts.

    5. zenpundit Says:

      Helen’s “balancing” point being about identity is mostly right – though in some instances it was about accumulating electoral college votes in key states or avoiding a cultural backlash.

      From the end of the Civil War on, there were informal prohibitions on members of the national ticket being from deep south original Confederate states. “Southerners” elected or in contention were invariably either Texans ( John Nance Garner, Sam Rayburn, LBJ) or border staters ( Wilson, Truman, Alben Barkley and others). After the end of Jim Crow, Jimmy Carter broke that mold and was later followed by Bill Clinton.

    6. Danny L. McDaniel Says:

      Identity politics has always been part of the American political culture and te country has survived, I remember being in catholic school in the 1960’s at the height of the life and death of John and Robert Kennedy. Without overwhelming Catholic support John F. Kennedy would have never been elected President.

      African-Americans should be proud of Barack Obama. Politics is all about people and emotions. That was clearly seen at Obama acceptance speech when people started to cry over a rather underwhelming speech. The stadium and backdrop looked more like it was suited for a Madonna concert. People whipping themselves up in a frenzy over a speech they had heard a thousand times over the past four or five decades. It could have been delivered by Walter Mondale in 1984. There was nothing new, nothing innovative. The same old liberal same old.

      I don’t see the appeal in the man. Most of his platroom is warmed over liberalism from 50 years ago. He say he is a “post-60’s” candidate but it sounds like the same old tommy rot from that time period.

      The Democrats couldn’t even run a primary straight without changing the rules a couple of times, and now they want to run the country!

      Danny L. McDaniel
      Lafayette, Indiana

    7. Jonathan Says:

      Like Shannon, I am grateful “for any phenomenon that might keep the U.S. Presidency out of the hands of extreme leftists.” If selecting Palin helps McCain get elected then I am for selecting Palin, even though she has some deficiencies. In the worst case I think she would be a better president than either Obama or Biden, and the worst case is unlikely.

      I know a few women who were tremendously excited about Hillary Clinton as a female candidate. My sense is that these women are now going to vote for Obama because they are leftists first, just as many Jewish leftists will vote for Obama because they are leftists first. I doubt that Palin will even register with these people, because she is not a leftist. Where Palin may help is in convincing apathetic conservatives and libertarians, male and female, and undecided women in purple states to vote for McCain.

    8. Jim Bennett Says:

      Wilson was a Virginian — a border-stater only in a narrow technical sense, considering the number of soldiers and generals Virginia supplied to the Confederacy. There was a Robert E. Something-or-other who was a big deal, I recall. He was acceptable primarily because of his long association with Princeton and New Jersey — a sheep-dipped Yankee, as it were. But is was he who segregated the Federal civil service. It’s interesting how much of segregation was a recent phenomenon (1890s and 1900s) and a left-wing, Populist project. Most of the real opposition to transportation segregation laws (a la Plessey v. Ferguson) came from business conservatives in the South.

      But Helen’s point is correct — “balancing” has always been a consideration in Federal politics, right from the selection of the Virginian Washington to head a mostly-New England army in Boston in 1775. It’s inevitable in a wide, diverse (in the real sense of the word) federal Union.

    9. Jonathan Says:

      People need to stop ego-identifying with politicians and instead treat them like untrustworthy temp hires.

      This is the quote of the year.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Strictly speaking, identity politics (despite the name) really means political groups based on innate physical characteristics. Attributes like region and religion do not really qualify because individuals can a do change these associations at will.

      Identifying with a politician because the you believe they feel and think the way you do because they chose to live in the same part of the country or attend the same church is not the same as identifying with politician because he has the same genes or genitalia. The ideological gap between Hillary and McCain is substantial. Anyone who will make that leap based solely on the sex of his VP is nuts.

      The entire point of creating identity politics was to disrupt the natural integration process of America. It evolved because it rewarded politician who divided the electorate one from the other based on characteristics individuals could not control. Prior to the 60’s identity politics was an evil corrupting and retarding the evolution of the American experiment. During the 60’s, the left discovered its power and enshrined it in their political doctrines.

      If we can’t find a way to reverse the process, the integrative process that makes America America will fail. We will balkanize into identity each in vicious competition to get more than other groups. Cooperation and mutual identity will break down. Eventually we will blow apart just like other multicultural societies.

    11. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “People like to be led by people they identify with. It’s easier to identify with someone who looks like you, or has an experience in common with you.”

      I take you have some scientific support for that statement.

    12. Lexington Green Says:

      “People need to stop ego-identifying with politicians … .”

      Never happen. That’s part of what it is all about. I don’t like it, but I recognize the reality.

    13. Bob Roof Says:

      “Strictly speaking, identity politics (despite the name) really means political groups based on innate physical characteristics. Attributes like region and religion do not really qualify because individuals can a do change these associations at will.”

      So, identity politics wouldn’t include characteristics like ‘poor, wealthy’, ‘religious’, ‘pro-life’, ‘pro-choice’.

      I think we have a term that lacks definition. If, indeed, it only means, someone who looks like you, then it’s not a very useful term. Obviously, we are drawn towards people who look like us. One has only to look at how unsuccessful we’ve been in integrating housing.

      People tend to want to associate with folks they can identity with. Not just color/sex, but education levels, income levels, ethnic origin, and interests. Anyone ever seen the American enclaves of executives who are on assignment in a foreign country? And, it’s not just Americans who tend to flock together.

      Sarah Palin is a VP candidate who will help McCain to win this election. I won’t be voting for that team because Palin is a woman… I’ll be voting for McCain/Palin to keep an extreme leftist out of that office. I have no thoughts on why McCain chose her… I’m happy that he did.

    14. Shannon Love Says:

      I think we have a term that lacks definition. If, indeed, it only means, someone who looks like you, then it’s not a very useful term.

      It’s important because it hinges on immutable characteristics of individuals. An individual can easily change ideology, religion, region and even ethnic identity (within the same race). An individual cannot, however, an individual cannot change their race or sex.

      The ability of people to change and merge identities based on mutable characteristics allowed us to merge many competing blocks into one cohesive nation. Basing political identity on immutable characteristics makes this impossible.

    15. Roy Lofquist Says:

      Dear Ms. Love,

      I think I see a little different dynamic here. Women who see women’s issues as somewhat important had no place else to go except Ms. Clinton. In Palin they see their hopes and dreams writ large. She’s not talk – she’s a living breathing hero. Legally Blond – they love it.

      Regards,
      Roy

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      Roy Lofquist,

      Women who see women’s issues as somewhat important had no place else to go except Ms. Clinton.

      I disagree. Issues have nothing to do with the physical characteristics of the candidate. Palin is even farther to the right than McCain and represents and even greater gulf on the issues from Clinton. In fact, Palin is almost an anti-Clinton base on her positions. Yet, these people seem ready to ignore issues/polices just to get a politician who shares physical similarities.

      That’s insane.

    17. Ginny Says:

      Hillary Clinton is good on women’s issues if you want the government to be your husband; Palin seems relatively happy with her husband and would like government to do what it is supposed to do: build roads that go to somewhere and provide military defense.