Wednesday, June 13, 2018
THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL election was the peak, at least thus far, for the tactics of identity politics in U.S. elections. In the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton's potential status as the first female candidate was frequently used not only to inspire her supporters but also to shame and malign those who supported other candidates, particularly Bernie Sanders.
One of the dominant themes that emerged in Democratic Party discourse from the 2016 election is that it is critically important to support female candidates and candidates of color, and that a failure or refusal to support such candidates when they present a credible campaign is suggestive evidence of underlying bigotry.
But all of these stalwart, bedrock imperatives of identity politics seem strangely absent from the 2018 election cycle. These professed beliefs, in fact, seem to have vanished from Democratic Party politics almost entirely.
Over and over, establishment Democrats and key party structures have united behind straight, white male candidates (including ones tainted by corruption), working to defeat their credible and progressive Democratic opponents who are women, LGBT people, and/or people of color. Clinton herself has led the way.
Across the country, the Democratic establishment has united behind white males at the expense of their female challengers and candidates of color.
It is possible, of course, to argue that uniting behind a white male against challengers who are female or people are color is justified by ideological, policy, and strategic preferences. And there's likely a great deal of truth to that in these cases: The candidates challenging Cuomo, Crowley, Menendez, and Ashford are running to their left. They are advocating things like abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "Medicare for All," an end to the war on terror, and a far higher minimum wage.
The Democratic establishment tends to despise progressive platforms like that -- such views, after all, are a direct threat to the interests of the corporate, Wall Street, and weapons manufacturing funding base that sustains the party -- and so it's not just plausible but likely that their opposition to those candidates really is driven by ideology, rather than demographic preferences or bigotry.
But that's not the ethos or philosophy that the Democratic establishment embraces when it's their centrist, pro-status-quo candidates who are women, LGBT people, or people of color, at which point it becomes a moral obligation to support them and evidence of bigotry if one refuses to do so. Indeed, supporters of Sanders throughout 2015 and 2016 endlessly and vocally insisted that their preference was due to ideology, not misogyny, yet they still had the label "Bernie bro" affixed to their forehead.
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