Opinion

Identity Politics Will Lose Again

Senate Democrats | FlickrThe stakes are higher than ever for the Democratic Party this election year, but Democrats face a critical issue in their race against Donald Trump.

With primaries now underway, Democrats need to change their strategy. The party’s reluctance to avoid the pitfall of identity politics — the focus on racial, gender and sexual identities rather than key policy issues — will likely lead them to a repeat of the 2016 election. 

The Democratic Party failed to recognize its critical mistake four years ago. They didn’t present a platform that could appeal to all Americans — rather they focused on specific demographics. They’re doing it again. Donald Trump was elected because he presented a vision, regardless of its morality, not because he pandered to different groups. 

While Hillary Clinton was parading about becoming the first woman potentially elected president, Trump was asking disaffected Sanders’ voters for their support. While Democrats were talking about bathrooms, Trump was talking about jobs. While Clinton was allegedly pulling hot sauce out of her purse, Trump was attacking her disastrous foreign policy.

This proved critical, considering  “about 8.4 million 2012 Obama voters backed Trump in 2016,” according to data reported by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. To make matters worse, 12 percent of those who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders   (D-Vt.) in the Democratic primary switched their vote to Trump in the general election, according to NPR.

A 2018 Washington Post headline spells out the disaster: “4.4 million 2012 Obama voters stayed home in 2016 — more than a third of them black.” Clinton failed to energize voters in key states. 

Democrats need to recognize the reason why: These voters didn’t see anything in it for them.

Trump will win reelection in November if Democrats don’t present a clear path forward for the nation as a whole. Minority voters, women and the working class can’t be won over with cheap talk. It’s necessary for Democrats to regain trust and votes. They won’t do it with the politics of race and gender.

Democrats need to stay on the issues that voters care about. Healthcare, the economy and foreign policy need attention. Voters want to see their lives improved by policy. They don’t care what the background of their nominee is, except that they’re qualified and electable. The party needs to change its rhetoric. 

When Democrats complain their primary field isn’t diverse enough, they’re missing the point. This is despite data reported Jan. 8 from a Washington Post-Ipsos poll suggesting potential minority voters aren’t supporting minority candidates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, per those numbers, carries 48 percent of black Democrats, followed by Sanders with 20 percent. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) for comparison had only carried 4 percent. Similarly, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D-Texas) failed to carry significant Latino support, according to USA Today. That has nothing to do with bigotry.

When a CNN moderator asked Bernie why he allegedly told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) a woman couldn’t win the presidency in the Democratic debate on Jan. 14, they missed the point. True or not, people are sick and tired of labeling and pandering.

The Democratic Party will likely drop the ball. The current pursuit of political wokeness won’t win over voters, especially those in vital states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Maybe it’ll take another disastrous loss for them to learn. 

Meanwhile in Iowa, initial results from NBC News show moderate Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) and more progressive Sanders ahead.  New Hampshire is next in what is bound to be an exciting race. Hopefully the Democrats will regain their sense of vision.

 We’ll see how they approach the issues in the next debate on Feb. 7. and in the upcoming months.

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