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Is Unchecked Identity Politics Good for America?

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Definition: Identity politics is a term that describes a political approach wherein people of a particular religion, race, social background, class or other identifying factor develop political agendas and organize based upon the interlocking systems of oppression that affect their lives and come from their various identities. Identity politics centers the lived experiences of those facing various systems of oppression to better understand how racial, economic, gender, and other forms of oppression are linked and to ensure that political agendas and political actions arising out of identity politics leave no one behind.

If you are a diehard fan of the Green Bay Packers, you may always love and support the overall organization and closely identify with them even if they don’t always draft well, or lack player development or coaching challenges. Your identity may be emotionally tied to this team from Northeastern Wisconsin. Let’s be honest, if you were a very young child who teethed while living in Wisconsin, independent of where you currently reside, you bleed green and gold. You’ve closely identified with the Packers and sometimes lack objectivity on how they play in a given game or season. It’s just a big part of who you are, a significant number of supporters love the Packers no matter what – a strong emotional bond and identity for this brand.

Let's move on to national politics. As of last week in our 2020 Presidential election, over 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump for President, a record amount of votes for a second-place candidate. That’s a lot of votes for our POTUS even though supporters will publically say they don’t like his language, narcissism, norm busting, or his basic crudeness but they’ll still vote for him. Why is that the case? For many of these voters, they identify themselves as Republican, and many are aligned to ignore or excuse his behavior in office – because of the ‘R’ behind his name. Even as the Coronavirus has infected 100,000 new cases in America on average for the first 12 days of November, they still support DJT or condone or accept his 20,000 lies of falsehoods while in office. It’s more than support, there’s an emotional attachment or identity to the Republican party, so you are more comfortable and forgiving of his presidency because of that bond – switching sides may be too big a ‘ask’ regarding this bond.

Let’s revisit my personal identity branding or identity politics. Again, I identity with the Green Bay Packers and also the Democratic Party, so I’m guilty as charged. I emotionally align myself with both brands so again part of my identity is wrapped up in that support. However, my identity towards these two means strong support but at the same time, an unbiased and more critical evaluation of the Packers and DP even though I’m emotionally attached. I’m still inclined to scrutinize them on the gridiron when they’re not playing well or when the Democratic Party is not effectively legislating policies to help all Americans. My identity is strong but doesn’t mean I’m always shy about criticism, especially if I think it’s warranted. If Biden struggles, once in office, my intended approach will be to honestly and objectively evaluate how well he’s done with the current cards dealt with him regarding the Congressional alignment. Going back a few years and evaluating the former Democratic President, he had my vote but I would scrutinize him with a letter grade for both his domestic and foreign policy. I will not give a democrat a pass just because of the ‘D’ behind their name, in my mind, scrutiny is still required even if my identity towards that party is strong.

Getting back to the 2020 election, if you voted for Trump because of fear and the fact that America is slowly becoming more and more dissimilar to you, racially and culturally, I’m not going to call you a racist per se, but wonder if you have taken a critical stance on who’s the best person with a thorough plan to get this country back to a semblance of normalcy. Our country currently has many needs that are not being met such as getting a much better handle on the Pandemic, high unemployment, racial tensions, needed election reform, and policies that will begin to address climate change.

For the sake of our country, it’s imperative Americans use facts and data when stating their positions and not merely using talking points. When someone uses talking points, it appears they aren't doing a ‘deep dive’ into the policies of one or both candidates in the race. Republican talking points are easy to use, especially if you pick them up on social media. For example, Biden will destroy the middle class or Biden will take away your guns or if Biden was president during COVID, we'd have 20,000,000 dead Americans. Many Trump proponents have engaged in parroting what's said by Trump in press conferences or on Twitter without critically evaluating those statements from a fair and unbiased perspective. Let’s be honest, this principle applies to both Democrats and Republicans, our Republic depends on most voters having an open mind and critical thinking behavior regardless of their strong identity towards one candidate or party. When someone can’t provide additional context and policy details to their talking points, I’m more inclined to say they care more about which party is in office and don't want to exact too much time and effort to review their behavior and policies absent of independent thought.

If I attempt to understand the unconditional support for DJT, fear appears to be a driving force as the United States slowly changes socially, culturally, and ethnically. Some demographers say that White Americans will be a minority by the middle of this century. That’s tough for many White Americans to accept as they’ve been a majority since the inception of our nation. Look, I’m White and the change in demographics makes me a little nervous too but at the same time, I realize America is a melting pot, and legal immigrants become Americanized whether they realize it or not. It's important to remember new American citizens are coming here for religious or political freedom, increased opportunity, and a better way of life. It's nothing personal towards the current majority -- many want to live the American dream too. A different language or different skin color may slightly change over time but new citizens are after the same thing that many current Americans are after so is that such a bad thing?

I get it, if you’re white and have been in a majority position for your entire life; you’re not necessarily comfortable about the change. Look at the incredible amount of technology changes (just to use one industry example) over the last 10 - 20 years, change is occurring rapidly and those leaders in Washington D.C. need to enact some policy changes to protect Americans during all these changes. Science moves forward too, it's important that the electorate realizes that trusting scientists and accepting what's discovered or learned today about science typically is independent of one's political party. That's what representative government needs to do today with rapid changes that occur in our society -- 'the only constant in life is change' so settling for the status quo doesn't appear to be an effective stance as it will not allow America to confront the many changes and challenges that lie ahead. It’s going to be Ok, the quicker we accept this momentum and trend, and go at it with an eye on what's best for our country from the objective lens, the better our country will be overall.

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