Using identity politics has long been a strategy for both major parties
Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton may be the single most disruptive event in U.S. politics for decades to come. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current state of the Democratic Party. As the nation comes to terms with the implications of a Trump presidency, the left is undergoing an existential crisis — perhaps comparable to that of the GOP following their loss in 2008 — and a general understanding that the party must make drastic changes to its platform or risk collapse has arisen.
Foremost among these alarmists is Columbia University’s Mark Lilla, who alleges the Democrats’ emphasis on identity politics has led to the party’s demise. According to Lilla, Clinton’s decision to directly appeal to black, LGBT and women voters alienated individuals outside of these groups and ensured they voted for Trump come November. The Republican’s victory merely confirms the death of identity liberalism and the need for the left to rectify its message.
Although I disagree with Lilla on several points, for the sake of brevity I will only address two in this article. First, Lilla portrays identity politics as an exclusively liberal phenomenon, a claim that initially seems rather baffling. The Republican Party’s commitment to preserving their support among white evangelical Christians — best exemplified in former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee proclaiming the U.S. is “moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity” is a clear example of identity politics’ nonpartisan appeal. Surely, an informative discussion of identity politics would mention Evangelical Christians and white working-class voters in addition to African-Americans, Latinos and other minority communities that are often associated with the term. However, Lilla alleges identity politics largely dismisses the first two aforementioned groups.