Friday, January 17, 2020

Identity Politics Remains a Political Loser

It's Kim Strassel.

I love this lady!

At WSJ, "Stay Woke, Drop Out: In its wake, identity politics leaves a trail of failed Democratic candidates":

To paraphrase Santayana, Democrats who refuse to acknowledge Hillary Clinton’s failures in the 2016 election were always doomed to repeat them. Why is their primary field littered with the failed bids of woke candidates? Why is #WarrenIsASnake trending on Twitter? Because identity politics remains a political loser.

That’s the takeaway from the rapidly narrowing Democratic field, and smart liberals warned of it after 2016. Mark Lilla, writing in the New York Times, faulted Mrs. Clinton for molding her campaign around “the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop.” Successful politics, he noted, is always rooted in visions of “shared destiny.”

Progressives heaped scorn on Mr. Lilla—one compared him to David Duke—and doubled down on identity politics. Nearly every flashpoint in this Democratic race has centered on racism, sexism or classism. Nearly every practitioner of that factionalist strategy has exited the race. Mr. Lilla is surely open to apologies.

Kamala Harris created the first big viral moment when she tore into Joe Biden, absolving him of being a “racist” even as she accused him of working with segregationists to oppose school busing. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand didn’t hold the race card but ran a campaign about “women’s equality,” attacking any Democrat who didn’t measure to her standards on abortion, child care and violence against women.

Sen. Cory Booker campaigned relentlessly on “systemic racism” and “social justice,” blasting Mr. Biden for his work on the 1994 crime bill and warning the nation of an “all-out assault” on black voting rights in 2020. Beto O’Rourke felt the need to make up for his own whiteness by going all in on reparations for slavery. Juli├ín Castro built his run on complaints about “discriminatory housing policy,” injustices to transgender and indigenous women, and threats to marginalized communities.

Which bring us to Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to rescue her campaign with a Hail Mary appeal to “sexism.” Her campaign leaked in the run-up to Tuesday’s debate the claim that Mr. Sanders, in a private 2018 meeting, told her he didn’t believe a woman could win the presidency. Mr. Sanders denied it. When the inevitable CNN question came Tuesday night, Ms. Warren played the victim and rolled out a rehearsed statistic about the election failure rate of the men on stage. She praised the Democratic Party for having “stepped up” to elect a Catholic president in 1960 and a black one in 2008 and suggested it should do the same for a female candidate today. Sen. Amy Klobuchar cheered her on.

This is the politics of exclusion—and it explains why a field that began as the most diverse in Democratic history is now coming down to a competition between two old white men. Candidates who speak primarily to subsections of the country are by necessity excluding everybody else. All voters want to know what a candidate is going to do specifically for them, and for the country as a whole. And while many voters view issues in a moral context, few voters feel a moral imperative to vote for candidates solely because they are black, or female, or gay. It’s an unpersuasive argument.

Identity politics is also by necessity vote-losing, because it requires accusations. Ms. Warren is getting blowback now after implying that Mr. Sanders is a misogynist, and calling him a liar. Sanders supporters are lacing Ms. Warren on social media with snake emojis and declaring a #NeverWarren campaign. Even if she stages a comeback, she’s alienated a key base of support.

Precisely because Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders don’t have easy identity-politics cards to play, they’ve focused on broader themes. Yes, they give shout-outs to core liberal constituencies, but Mr. Biden’s consistent argument is that he is the only one qualified to beat Mr. Trump, while Mr. Sanders’s is that America needs to overhaul its economic system. Those are positions around which greater numbers of Democrats can unify...