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23. A Storm to Trump Identity Politics

Basket of Deplorables

At a fundraising event in New York City in early September 2016 Hillary Clinton famously stated: You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.[1]

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Urgent need to move beyond divisive identity politics

Her campaign deviated from traditional broad-based party politics and was directed at attracting social groups that are commonly accepted in the US under the umbrella of “identity politics” which includes women and minorities or marginalised groups like blacks, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community. Clinton’s campaign rhetoric clearly reinforced the divide between this loose coalition of “Acceptables” and “Others”.

Surprise Defeat

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1. Identity politics contributed to Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat

“Others” included whites and Christians that did not fit comfortably within Clinton’s constituencies. Beside, many women, unexpectedly joined their ranks.

Most of the whites in question came from those areas that … have largely missed the generation-long transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into a diverse, information-driven economy deeply intertwined with the rest of the world.[2] Perhaps the alienation of these voters came about because Clinton … only placed modest emphasis on the economy.[3]

With regard to Christians, she antagonised many of them with her suggestions, when speaking to the 2015 Women in the World Summit that … deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.[4] White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump (80%); Mormans came in at 61%; Catholics at 52%; and non-white Protestants at 35%.[5]

Without doubt, economically disadvantaged and neglected white voters contributed to the surprise defeat of Clinton. At the same time identity politics played an important role in her demise and the downfall of the Democrats.

Identity Politics

What is “identity politics”? The term has a range of definitions. It signifies a form of politics that aims to secure the political freedom of particular groups of people, like minority races and marginalised factions that are not represented by dominant elites. It has been important in raising particular issues of discrimination or inequality felt by particular “identities” in society, which would not ordinarily be addressed by political parties.

In her book Retrieving Experience Sonia Kruks explains that: The demand [of identity politics] is not for inclusion within the fold of “universal humankind” on the basis of shared human attributes; nor is it for respect “in spite of” one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.[6] The recognition of the rights of particular “identities” is insisted through a burgeoning “politically correct” vocabulary that is stifling the use of language, encroaching on free speech and antagonising increasing numbers of people.

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2. Bringing a storm that will clear the air?

Before the 2016 election, identity politics was associated mainly with Clinton’s “Acceptables”. Since then, the media are more likely to recognise that white groups, even those of the far-right or alt-right, are included within the term, thus emphasising the growing gap that exists between sets of “bubble identities” within society.

Irrespective of the side one is on, identity politics is increasingly becoming a self-centred and belligerent movement that justifies its narcissistic stance on current and former discrimination, or forced isolation.

Ripping Us Apart

Columnist Jeff Poore quotes from Mark Steyn who states: The minute you have identity groups—the minute you have identity politics that what matters is whether people are black, or white, or gay, or straight, or transgendered, or cisgenerded, or Muslim, or infidel—then you do not see the humanity in your fellow man.[7] David French, staff correspondent of the National Review concurs when he observes: Identity politics are ripping us apart.[8]

The 2016 election in the US and the increasing polarization of society on both sides of the Atlantic has created a storm that has been building for some time. Hopefully, the period of upheaval we are now experiencing in the West will, like a thunderstorm, clear the air and allow all sides to move forward in a more agreeable manner.

Moving Beyond Identity Politics

The real challenge for a polarized planet is for dissimilar groups to re-learn how to accommodate each other in a world that is going through fundamental technological and associated social and ideological changes. The question to answer is: How can widely disparate segments of society, that have little sympathy or enthusiasm for each other, find a formula that will allow them live in tolerable accord?

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3. How to overcome the polarization of Western society?

One way to begin the process of achieving this goal is to understand our identity in objective terms, which recent discoveries in human genetics allow (articles #16 and #17). The next step involves dismantling the term “identity politics” and acknowledging that identity is a completely separate issue to politics. “Identity politics” is politics, plain and simple.

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4. Simple solutions are always best

How could a move beyond identity politics help to harmonize society? In his book Shelter and Shadows, on which the present Identity Series is based, author Raymond Keogh reveals how he resolved his deep-seated personal identity conflict (article #22). It is fitting to repeat the text of this article, where he acknowledges that: … the clashing traits that drove [his personal quest] arose from the residues of conflict between two distinct human cultural appendages derived, essentially, from the same foundation. This oft-repeated story, reproduced around our planet, is the blueprint of most cultural conflicts.[9] here

Understanding the nature of our universal identity reveals our common underlying kinship and makes it difficult to maintain the artificial and divisive barriers that segregate us. It may have taken a lifetime to achieve a solution through a straightforward redefinition of identity, but—as the adage goes—simple solutions are always best.

Refs

[1] Katie Reilly. 2016. Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Remarks About Donald Trump Supporters. Time. http://time.com/4486502/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables-transcript/

[2] Irwin, N. and Katz, J. 2016. The Geography of Trumpism. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/13/upshot/the-geography-of-trumpism.html

[3] Austin, A. 2017. Mistakes in the Democratic Party’s Economics-Versus-Identity Debate. Demos. http://www.demos.org/blog/1/5/17/3-mistakes-democratic-party%E2%80%99s-economics-versus-identity-debate

[4] Powers, K. 2015. Saint Hillary seeks to save Christians from Christianity. US Today. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/04/28/hillary-cling-religion-god-policy-column/26462609/

[5] Pulliam Bailey, S.  2016. White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, exit polls show. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/09/exit-polls-show-white-evangelicals-voted-overwhelmingly-for-donald-trump/?utm_term=.a29e86c23d41

[6] Cressida, H. Summer 2016 Edition. “Identity Politics”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/identity-politics/

[7] Poor, J. 2017. Steyn: Expect More Beating-Type Incidents as Long as the Left Is Invested in Identity Politics. Breitbart. http://www.breitbart.com/video/2017/01/06/steyn-expect-beating-type-incidents-long-left-invested-identity-politics/

[8] French, D. 2016. Identity Politics Are Ripping Us Apart. National Review.
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435567/identity-politics-race-ripping-us-apart

[9] Keogh, R. M. 2016. Shelter and Shadows. An Awakening to Our Common Identity. Our Own Identity. here

Photos 

  1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hillary_Clinton_(24266530879).jpg (author: Gage Skidmore)
  2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_official_portrait_(cropped).jp
  3. and 4. R M. Keogh (also creator of the image)

Coming Next (April to June, 2017)

From the beginning of April and up to June, instead of the usual monthly article, the Series published a three-part essay by Raymond Keogh to mark the 101st year after the 1916 Rising. The title of the essay is:

Irish National Identity—Pre & Post 2016 here