Identity Culture and Politics: Triumph of Style over Substance

Since the US election “identity politics” have been on full display.  It actually goes beyond politics in the sense that social media has brought us a global culture where who you are matters while what you accomplish does not.  We have had many celebrities like Paris Hilton who are famous for being famous.

In the political realm, this takes the form of identity politics, defined as (
Political activity or movements based on or catering to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or social interests that characterize a group identity.

Thus in the last US election, Hillary’s slogan was “I’m with her.”  And when she lost, women took to the streets in protest, believing that their gender lost.  And in their shock and dismay, cyberspace is overwhelmed with messages reminding people that Trump is not “one of us.” Sadly, that refusal to identify with the victor and now President extends to his wife and children as well.

Unsurprisingly, for two months before taking office, Trump was criticized for things people imagined he would do once in power.  And that goes to the core of identity politics.  A subgroup, be they Hispanic, or LGBT, expects that one of their own should be in office, ensuring protection of their group’s interests.  The reality is, elected officials do not become competent due to an identity. Moreover, people belong to many groups, and each person has their own mix of opinions and interests.

The US used to be a merit-based society, where people were recognized and rewarded for their achievements, not simply for their style.  But recently it is more about style, not substance.  Thus the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Obama, not for achieving peace, but for getting elected US President while being black/white, Christian/Muslim.

I liked Obama, and thought he kept his cool guiding the US out of the 2008 financial crisis. He was re-elected not so much on identity as on achievements, referred to in his 2012 campaign slogan:  “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive.”  Unfortunately, in his second term, he went off the rails on climate change, seeking to be a hero in the eyes of environmentalists, a key liberal identity group.

Hillary promised more of the same, and that is why people voted against her or abstained.

The Onion takes a humorous look at identity politics (here):






One comment

  1. oiltranslator · January 25, 2017

    The missing option on the wheel is BAD PLATFORM. The candidates were both fake. The Democratic platform was full of men with guns to ban energy, tax, confiscate and regulate, shoot teenagers and bomb the other side of the planet. But repeal marijuana prohibition or relegalize drugs in general wasn’t in there. The only substantive Democratic platform divergence from the GO-Pee urinalysis party platform was to keep abortion safe and legal. Dems got the beating they so richly deserved, and Libertarians got a 328% increase in spoiler votes with which to change the laws and repair their dereliction.


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