Media keep talking about “identity politics.” But what does it even mean anymore?

From Media Matters for America: https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/10/18/media-keep-talking-about-identity-politics-what-does-it-even-mean-anymore/221736

More than 40 years after the term was coined, “identity politics” has been reduced to buzzword status.

PARKER MOLLOY
October 18, 2018

For nearly two years, Democrats have been desperate to understand the secret to President Donald Trump’s success. This week, Fox Business hosts Lou Dobbs and Trish Regan might have just figured it out.

From the October 15 edition of Trish Regan Primetime (emphasis added:

RISH REGAN (HOST): You look at the Democrats right now, and they’re really clinging to this idea of identity politics. In your view, what are they missing?

LOU DOBBS: Well, group and identity politics are really the blueprint for the Democratic Party. It’s no longer, as it once was, about the American worker. It’s no longer about middle America or middle class Americans. For 20 years, they watched the middle class in this country shrink. It took none other than President Donald J. Trump to step up and say he is for the American worker, the American working family, for the middle class, and put America first. And with that he has driven, it seems to me, a stake into the heart of group and identity politics. Because remember, Trish, and I know you do, this is a president — from the moment he began campaigning — says he will be the president of all Americans. … This is a president of possibility and an insistence upon dreaming, dreaming — all America is dreaming. And, by the way, those dreams are being realized in 21 months this man has been in office.

REGAN: It’s amazing because in some ways, Lou, I think he’s beating them at their own game. I mean, they used to be about middle class, working Americans, and then all of a sudden, as we saw in 2016 and the aftermath right up until today, things became about, say, the transgender population, which is 0.01 percent of the population. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. However, they forgot, they forgot all these people out there going to work every day trying to make a living, trying to put food on the table, and consequently, Donald Trump stole their thunder.

Ah yes, identity politics! Like its rhetorical cousin “political correctness,” identity politics has become one of those catch-all terms that means whatever the person saying it wants it to mean at that particular moment. For the past several years, it’s been deployed derisively to dismiss concerns specific to any group outside of the ruling class. Marriage equality? Identity politics. Black Lives Matter? Definitely identity politics. Protecting the right to an abortion? Massive identity politics. And, well, you get the idea.

In the above discussion between Dobbs and Regan, Regan cited the Democratic Party’s focus on issues specific to trans people as part of its downfall. After all, if just 0.01 percent of the country is transgender and Democrats are really going all-in on policies and campaign promises that would solely benefit that community, that does seem like a foolish use of resources. Unfortunately for Regan, neither point is really true. Regan was off by a factor of 60 in her trans statistic — the Williams Institute estimates that 1.4 million adults, or 0.6 percent of the population, identify as trans.

But to her second point: Yes, Democrats did include a few nods to the trans community in their 2016 party platform, such as supporting the passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination bill and highlighting violence against trans people. But was that to the exclusion of anyone or anything else? No, not really. On the flip side, the Republican platform leaned into these issues hard, strongly opposing a recently implemented marriage equality ruling; pledging to stop using Title IX “to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people,” as they allege President Barack Obama had done with his “dear colleague” memo to schools saying bullying against trans students isn’t OK; championing the passage of the so-called First Amendment Defense Act, which would shield people from local and state statutes banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation so long as the person discriminating cites a strongly held religious belief; and support for discriminatory anti-trans policies in public space, such as North Carolina’s controversial, anti-trans HB 2 legislation.

Continue reading at: https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/10/18/media-keep-talking-about-identity-politics-what-does-it-even-mean-anymore/221736

 

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