On Nov. 7, journalist Jemele Hill posted a tweet noting the number of women who voted for Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in this year’s midterm elections. Confused by the number of white women who voted for Cruz, she asked, “Who is the real face of feminism?” Similar sentiments were posted across social media sites by feminists questioning the number of women who voted for Republicans instead of Democrats in hotly contested races.
Why have these tweets garnered so much attention? It is because Democrats expected this midterm election to bring a new blue wave to Congress, and they expected to do this through identity politics.
Identity politics is the idea that a person’s experience gives he or she authority when speaking on topics of those experiences. This may seem like a positive and empowering concept, but it’s detrimental to honest political discussion. It suppresses freedom of thought and confines people of a certain race or gender to one party. This ideology implies that whether you agree with the base of the party or not, you must vote for its leaders because they will stand up for you and your experiences. This is not a productive mindset for the American political system.
Other women were fed up with tweets like those of Hill that rallied against some ideological stance based merely on their gender. One such woman was actress Patricia Heaton, who tweeted that “women of all kinds” will continue to support a party founded on pro-life values rather than support candidates that compromise their beliefs. Women marginalized by their political beliefs are tired of being put into a box based solely on their gender.
The only thing that identity politics accomplishes is a huge racial and gender divide. In this past election, women tended to vote for the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate by 19 percentage points. Among race, the skew is even greater with 90 percent of black Americans, 69 percent of Latinos and 77 percent of Asians voting for the Democratic candidate. While one cannot discredit the thoughts and ideas of those who voted, these numbers do beg the question of why there is such great support from women and minorities for the Democratic Party. Party identification should be based on values, not on skin color or gender.
As the Democratic Party continues to focus on identity as the leading cause for support, it loses out on serious discussions of the issues plaguing this country. In a “New York Times” opinion piece titled “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Mark Lilla noted that students coming to college are seemingly unaware of the severity of these issues. It blames some of the problem on history courses in high school that focus on trivial topics instead of teaching students the past so that they can make better decisions for the future.
Identity politics are not helping create open and honest discussions of real political issues. Instead of focusing on experiences, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other qualifying factors of a person, Americans should focus on the validity of a person’s ideas. As the popular conservative analyst Ben Shapiro says, “facts don’t care about your feelings.” It’s time to start valuing logic and reasoning as a way to persuade people toward a side of the aisle.
Lauren Moses is a sophomore accounting and political science major from Dallas.