Government & Law

Identity Politics – Good or Bad?

December 17, 2018

First a definition.  Here is how Wikipedia defines Identity Politics:

Identity Politics are political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify. Identity politics includes the ways in which people’s politics are shaped by aspects of their identity through loosely[clarification needed] correlated social organizations. Examples include social organizations based on age, religion, social class or caste, culture, dialect, disability, education, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, generation, occupation, profession, race, political party affiliation, sexual orientation, settlement, urban and rural habitation, and veteran status.  The term “identity politics” has been in use in various forms since the 1960s or 1970s, but has been applied with, at times, radically different meanings by different populations.

We see a lot of ‘identity politics’ today.  In particular, are the vocal and organized groups that support and champion particular social issues.  The abortion issue is an example.  In general, it is a good thing when people express their views and articulate an argument in support of their view.  What is not good is when there affinity for that narrow view blinds them to all other social issues being debated, and they decide how to based solely on a candidates position on that one issue.  As our society is becoming more and more polarized, we are seeing more of this.  The Nation faces a myriad of critical issues.  It is unreasonable to expect that any one candidate will totally mirror our personal view on all issues.  We must consider priorities, impact on the future, and the values and integrity of the candidate.  Hence, I believe that identity politics in the extreme is not healthy for our democracy.

Identity politics can also refer to segments of the population such as the ‘financial elite’, ‘the 1%’, the ‘intellectual elite’, or the ‘political elite’.  These identity groups tend to vote to benefit and support their class.  The financial elite tend to support politics that will promote the increase in their personal wealth.  The political elite support politics that will benefit sustaining their political power.  All identity politics, at an extreme, tends to ignore the greater good for the Nation as a whole.  So I must conclude that identity politcs at an extreme, and we are seeing a lot of it, is unhealthy for our democracy.

Individual citizen engagement in the political process, however, is healthy.  We are better off if we can share our ideas, our views and associated rational.  We are also better off if we can listen to one another and debate.  Unfortunately when the polarization becomes extreme, this is very difficult.  This is where we find ourselves.  I write this blog to share my views.  I welcome comments and opposing views.  I believe that I can learn and evolve.  We collectively face a critical challenge.  For the sake of our democracy we must engage and debate.

Photo by Tony Fischer Photography

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