Lynne Bliss

The results of the 2016 election stunned Democrats who were sure they had a lock on the U.S. presidency and possibly a take-back of the Senate. Reality hit, and Democrats had decisions to make. Critics and analysts postulated that Democrats’ emphasis on minorities and identity politics were to blame.

Wikipedia defines identity politics as “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”

In Boston in mid-November, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said, “One of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.”

Doing so is not just a matter of party survival but of survival as a democratic-based country. Republicans successfully lured Democrats into making minority issues a focus. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promoted divide and conquer as a solution to American woes. Build a wall to keep out the Mexicans. Ban Muslims and set up a registry for those here. Insult women about their looks so men don’t have to compete with them. Mock the disabled to show your superiority. The underlying message was an emphasis on male white racial preservation, a topic exploited fully by the alt-right movement with a wink and a nod from Republicans.

Progressives took the bait and, in their effort to support minority rights, forgot their traditional values of inclusiveness. They allowed the more encompassing issues of income inequality, rising health care costs, stagnating wages and the impact of globalization on American jobs to fade from the political conversation, as Republicans had hoped would happen. Democrats fought the wrong enemy and ignored the economic and cultural concerns of rural America.

It may be difficult for Democrats to go beyond the traditional minority issues because helping those who can’t help themselves has been the cornerstone of the progressive policy. Job, education and health problems fall harder on minorities. There’s no need to abandon these concerns. By raising the entire ship, everyone benefits.

Broad-based solutions such as improved education would improve job opportunities for all, not just minorities. It would also encourage critical thinking, which improves decision-making about lifestyle, health care, housing, education and jobs as well as about candidates and political issues. By strongly addressing the needs of the working class and small businesses, Republicans will be less successful in convincing…