Over the last couple of weeks, we've heard many people say that the recent Presidential election was the death of so-called identity politics. That we can no longer identify groups - African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, etc. - to get specific support and should instead deal with a broad message that appeals to all groups. While I agree that people seeking national or statewide office must have a vision that will address and resonate with all constituencies, it is a misconception that identity politics is defeated or repudiated by this last election. And let's be clear, those groups didn't 'identify' themselves; they were victimized by those that made unemployment, immigration, wages, criminal justice and more unequal for them.
Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into a law, there were any number of efforts from both the right and left to stop candidates from dealing with specific identifying groups and their concerns. Throughout the decades, whether it was angry White men, or Democratic leadership of the '90s, or the Tea Party movement, or others, there was no new outcry to listen to and address those that have suffered from systemic racism or have been historically disenfranchised. Instead, we saw a build up of an alternative reality that later led to a false proclamation that the Obama election made us somehow 'post-racial'. The truth is, we have much work that remains before us.
Those that don't want to deal with institutional racism, gender bias, Islamophobia, homophobia and more, quite naturally don't want to see candidates or office holders address inequities. While it is crucial that we tackle income inequality and class warfare, we cannot do so without addressing racism and discrimination. Society must still deal with bias based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation even if we resolve income inequality. Rich Blacks still face racism that Whites who are equal financially do not face. The same holds true for women and those in the LGBTQ community in many areas. So when you have a drumbeat from the media, the right-wing and even Bernie Sanders saying that identity politics is dead, it's important to note that it was never alive from those communities that they failed to have a track record fighting with and on behalf of.
In the context of this discussion about the Presidential election somehow being an indictment on certain things, it's important to note that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes. Clearly, her message resonated with more Americans than Trump who would like to make up unfounded claims of 'voter fraud' to excuse his loss in the popular vote. And what is perhaps most striking in all of this is the fact that the champion of identity politics in the 2016 election was none other than Donald Trump himself. He used racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and more to appeal to an element of White blue-collar workers who he will now have to deliver promises that seemed far-fetched at best.
After such a grueling, vicious and long campaign cycle, there will be a thorough examination and parsing of what transpired. What messages worked, which ones didn't? Why did some voters stay home and not participate in the process? What really galvanized some to vote for an individual who openly made disparaging comments about so many different communities? Where does politics go from here? But as we collectively assess what happened, it's important that we don't go for the latest wave of race and gender deniers who use any opportunity to miscast things like it's a well-thought out analysis. Don't believe the hype.
Identity politics will live as long as people's identity give them another life that is unequal to the rest.