The New Orthodoxy: Identity Politics Captures Democratic Party

State control in the identity era – By Sbowman123 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio., challenged Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-CA., for house minority leader in 2016.  This year he has chosen not to run. Ryan, who is a white male, is probably making a wise call to not challenge the left’s new orthodoxy, which is identity politics.  

Identity politics of the left venerates women and minorities, while seeking to exclude men, especially white men, from political leadership.  Its more general impact is to alienate white male voters from the Democratic Party. Ryan, sensing which way the wind is blowing, encouraged a more junior member of Congress to challenge Pelosi.  Not surprisingly, the person he chose was a black female from Ohio.

Identity politics is defined by Webster’s as, “politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethic, social or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interest or concerns of any larger political group.”  

All Democratic House Speakers, prior to Pelosi, were white men.  However, those defending the Pelosi Speakership have rallied around the hashtag #FiveWhiteMen to demean Pelosi’s opposition, particularly Ryan.  The opposition is actually led by a female member of Congress and includes two Latinos, but the new orthodoxy is an exercise in power, not scholarship.

What has not been discussed is the racist and sexist nature of the hashtag.  It was created when Pelosi criticized an immigration task force saying, “The five white guys I call them, you know.”  She speculated, “Are they going to open a hamburger stand next or what?” The task force included her deputy, Congressman Stenny Hoyer, D-MD., and fellow Democrat, Senator Richard Durbin, D-IL., from Illinois.   

The fact that the hashtag has an inherently negative connotation and is reflexively embraced by the left as such, demonstrates how acclimated the left is to this new sexism and racism.  Criticizing white men is accepted, encouraged, and, as Pelosi’s comments reflect, considered funny.

The left’s embrace of the new orthodoxy is chronicled in “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations” by Amy Chua and “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics” by Mark Lilla.  Chua made the case that Donald Trump’s election in 2016 was facilitated by the left’s embrace of identity politics. This argument has not been widely embraced, but Chua was one of the few who predicted Trump’s victory.  

The Republicans have embraced conservative white identity politics since at least 1964.  When the civil rights act was passed in 1964, Democrats were criticized as communists and socialists for supporting civil and voting rights.  The Southern campaign strategy emphasizing states’ rights, to eliminate federal protections for civil and voting rights, was followed by Republican Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Richard Nixon in 1968.  This could be considered the orthodox use of identity politics.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan appealed to white voters, by speaking in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a city where civil rights workers were slaughtered and focused his speech on expanding states’ rights.  In his speech Reagan made a clear racial appeal using code:

I still believe the answer to any problem lies with the people. I believe in states’ rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the Constitution to that federal establishment.

Ronald Reagan in 1980 at the Neshoba County Fair 

George H. W. Bush, used a commercial of a scary black man, Willie Horton, to let whites know he was on their side. George W. Bush’s campaign spread a rumor in South Carolina that his primary opponent, John McCain, fathered a black child out of wedlock.  It was the end of the line for McCain and instrumental in letting white folks know Bush was on their side.

Since WWII GOP Presidential candidates have avoided explicit appeals to racist sentiments.  They have deployed code words or dog-whistles like “states’ rights” or “welfare queens” to let white voters know, when push comes to shove, they will be favored in public policy decisions.  

That was the case until 2015.  Trump made racism, or at least bigotry, explicit.  In his announcement speech he claimed Mexicans were “rapists” “bringing drugs” into the U.S.  He also proposed a ban on, anyone of Muslim faith, entering the U.S. He laid waste to his Republican opponents in the primary and won a majority of states in the electoral college.  

That the left would want to create a mirror image of conservative’s dismal record on race and gender is disturbing.  But it is a step some leading Democrats, like U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA., are openly encouraging.

Harris, from California, is considered a possible Presidential aspirant.  Her support for identity politics may be confused but she is a strong proponent of the practice.  Harris slammed critics of identity politics saying, “Its purpose is to minimize and marginalize issues that impact all of us. It is used to try and shut us up.”

For the Democrats to regain its national footing and the Republicans to be more responsible in governing, both parties must seek to unite and not divide. They must seek to be inclusive and not judgmental and exclusive. Sadly the identity era means intolerance is on the rise both on the left and right. This is bad for America and Democrats need to show the tolerance and inclusiveness with which liberalism was long associated. 


  1. Millie Herrera · ·

    Your article in my opinion is so way off base and so misogynistic, it is difficult to know where to begin.

    So now men are claiming that calling out misogyny is actually misandry i.e. bigotry toward men. Don’t you understand that you first must have power over a group in order to discriminate against them? Women do not have that power, and every attempt at dismissing or demeaning women for claiming our fair share proves once again that we are on the right path, and we will not stop until we achieve our goal of full equality.

    I want to leave you with a quote that expresses exactly my point: “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur


    1. So, in the first sentence you immediately default to identity politics by calling the article misogynistic.

      Two things. First, thanks for proving Kartik’s point. Second, this is why Democrats can’t have nice things.


      1. Actually I didn’t write this piece but our writer who contributed it is not misogynistic in any way shape or form…


  2. Not sure if this is what SalsaGator is getting at, but *liberal* feminist identity politics fails to offer a politics of liberation b/c (as it’s practiced) it undermines solidarity which cripples empowerment.


  3. Another thing that should be mentioned is that identity politics is, pure and simple, a lazy approach to debating. One usually turns to identity politics when they cannot make a strong policy argument. Looking at the 2016 Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders was winning the policy debates. How can you tell? Because Hillary Clinton was flipping on every major issue (TPP, Keystone, minimum wage, etc…). And when she couldn’t win on the issues, her surrogates just started yelling that Bernie supporters were “bros”. On the other hand, Bernie supporters can tell you exactly why they supported their candidate. They would mention specific issues, such as health care, banking regulations, and student debt, etc. However, with Hillary….she’s a woman!

    There are two things that I find extremely ironic when it came to Hillary supporters in 2016. First, Bernie Sanders did way better with women voters under the age of 45 compared to Hillary Clinton. So the “bros” argument really doesn’t hold any water (Also, isn’t “bros” a stereotype? Don’t identity politics’ supporters oppose that stuff? Yeah…). Second, the Hillary camp liked to discriminate on age. If you were a young Bernie Sanders support, you “didn’t know what you were talking about” because you are “too young to understand”. So, they like to talk a good game when it comes to protecting against discrimination, but don’t necessarily practice what they preach. (Honestly, I think that Hillary’s crowd was more of a cult since most of them could never tell you why they liked her, except for the fact that “she is a woman”).

    The problem is that identity politics is becoming a cancer inside the Democratic Party in general, not just in Florida. And, in some cases, it has become extreme. Take the Tant-Clendenin race for chair a few years back. I supported Alan, and did not support Tant. However, the supporters of Tant said that I only opposed Tant because “she was a woman”. Even though I had provided a number of reasons why I opposed Tant (such as having no platform, having Scott Arceneaux campaign for her, and lobbying for EBT Online, a story that even Marc Caputo picked up on), her supporters defaulted to the “lazy debate” argument which was “you don’t like her because she is a woman”. This problem became worse when a certain adjunct professor said that I was “sexist”, using her “extensive knowledge” of women’s issue to pass judgement. A person weaponizing their education credentials (especially a person in the field of academia) to launch an attack against someone on Twitter is not only unprofessional, but I would assume extremely unethical in the world of academia.

    Still, as someone who lives in the real world, where instant coffee and Big Macs continue to reign, people where I am from are tired of the Democrats’ PC bullshit, especially when it comes to identity politics. Also, political correctness is identity politics, and vice versa.

    It is easy to yell “sexism” or “racism” from your cafe on Park Avenue in Winter Park. However, you fail to understand voters outside of your politically correct bubble. This is why Democrats continue to underperform, even in successful election years, despite the fact that most Americans side with them on the issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GREAT article in the print edition of the Atlantic this month that makes all these points from a liberal perspective. Basically playing this game has ceded the economic argument for Democrats AND according to the author fed a situation where elites are playing their own game judgmental racism (something I have long said as well).


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