As identity politics become center stage, more and more people critique it. Identity politics is this odd belief system that we should endorse and support candidates, or listen to what certain people say, not due to their policies, or history, or even if they would make a good role model, but simply due to their arbitrary factors.
Just recently the GOP endorsed openly gay Cincinnati Council member Chris Seelbach. Chris made headlines back in 2011 when he became the first openly gay person to be elected into the Cincinnati City Council. This openly gay status has got another openly gay candidate, Seth Maney (who has been endorsed by the GOP), annoyed.
“As a gay man, I don’t believe that I owe him my vote because he happens to be gay. Does anyone?… Why does that guy deserve a seat on council when he is talking about things that are irrelevant to the quality of life of people living, working and paying taxes in our city. He doesn’t, but he has name ID, so congrats… I don’t lead with it, I’ve been in my relationship for 2½ years, and if it comes up, it comes up. I tell people when it’s relevant. Let’s face it: It’s not the 1970s and I’m not Harvey Milk and neither is Chris. It’s 2017, right?”
This idea has been becoming a predominant way of thinking for many Americans and those in the first world, who simply want to be able to vote for or criticize any candidate, politician, or public figure they want without having the person’s race, gender, or sexuality become part of the debate. The idea that a person’s minority status makes them a better candidate, or gives them the knowledge that someone who isn’t in that group does not have, is referred to as Identity Politics.
Identity Politics can be seen in everything from tiny squabbles online and blog posts, all the way up to the presidential elections. Many blogs like Huffington Post and Medium, wanted you to vote for Hillary Clinton simply because she was a woman. Many supporters even claimed that voting for anyone else is a vote for misogyny and that if you don’t vote for Hillary it’s because you are sexist. This frantic notion turned many people off of voting for Hillary and had thousands of people flock to Trump.
The same thing was seen during the 2008 election of Barrack Obama, where anyone who criticized him for his policies was automatically deemed as racist. This form of argument is not used to further a discussion but instead used as a way to silence dissenters. Because really, how do you combat a claim of racism or sexism? These two terms are pretty awful terms that nobody wants to experience, and many live in fear of being labeled as such. When one is called a bigot, they might as well be referred to as a Nazi for all the good it will do. It’s an ad hominem attack that ruins the credibility of the accused so that the person making the accusation doesn’t have to focus on one’s arguments.
It also shuts out many experiences, as people for a certain skin color, gender, or sexuality, are often shouted down or denied the ability to even be part of the discussion, not based on their arguments, but based on some factor that is far beyond their control. No discussion can be made if certain people are shut out for bigoted arbitrary reasons.
That is why the comments made by Maney makes sense in the current political climate. It seems as if we as a society care more about what a candidate is, rather than what the candidate is fighting for. This is a sad, and potentially dangerous turn of events, but thankfully there are many well-researched voters out there who could honestly not care less.
As more and more people step away from identity politics, the focus will start to become more on qualifications, rather than what the person is. A political climate full of qualified people is exactly what we all need at this point.