Ideally, politics should be about policy: What actions by government make sense to benefit the most people and secure the nation as a whole? But we should not pretend identity politics has not existed since the founding of our nation: We identified with our state, city, religion, and yes we identified by race, class, sex and ethnicity. Democrats’ embrace of “identity politics” is nothing new. It often is overly broad, though, and E.J. Dionne Jr. had an interesting piece last month. This particular quote stuck out for me:
For example, calls for an end to identity politics are frequently (and reasonably) interpreted by African Americans, Latinos, women and LGBTQ people as not-so-veiled attempts to make politics about straight white men again.
Source: The Washington Post.
OK, putting aside the other groups, including “women” in that list as if everyone with XX chromosomes is one monolithic group is absurd. Exit polls after 2016 showed that 52% of white women voted for Donald Trump. Time Magazine disputes that and claims Trump won white women with a plurality of 47% to 45%, but the point remains that women are not one monolithic voting block with a single set of interests. That is obvious: In a nation of over 300 million people, half of them are female. It is impossible to classify a group that large as one interest group. It is insulting for people like Dionne to continue to make that claim.
So how should Republicans deal with identity politics? We should focus on policy, and never stop explaining how conservative principles like limited government, individual liberty, the rule of law and free enterprise benefit everyone. We should not ignore the culture wars around us, because politics is often downstream of culture. We also need to aggressively repudiate racists and white supremacists, something that (let’s be honest) President Trump has too often been too slow to do.
Above all else, we should stress unity and strive to be a party not made up of disparate interest groups, but a party for the whole country based on specific principles. We should stop trying to buy into the Democrats identity politics message, with “X for Republicans” groups. We are not going to do that as well as Democrats, and it will be seen as inauthentic. Our political message should be good policy.