The public dislikes identity politics big time. Right-winger Steve Bannon rejoices when Democrats try to sell themselves through special appeals to race, gender, ethnicity or sexual identity. When Democrats dwell on identity politics, “I got ‘em,” he said. “(W)e can crush the Democrats.”
Identity politics is dated and even ignored by many in the groups being pandered to, as Kamala Harris’s low poll numbers among African Americans suggest. After the California politician attempted to smear Joe Biden as racially insensitive in the first Democratic debate, Biden’s high support among African Americans did not go down at all.
Blacks represent more than half of South Carolina’s Democratic primary voters. A recent Monmouth University poll puts Biden’s support among black Democrats at 51 percent! Harris is at 12 percent. Many of these voters were obviously looking past Harris’s opportunistic attack, but you wonder how many actually resented it.
Some of you may have been following a heated race for the Democratic nomination for district attorney in the Queens borough of New York. Tiffany Caban, a 31-year-old public defender of Puerto Rican origin, was pitted against Melinda Katz, a 25-year public servant in Queens. A former member of the state assembly and city council, Katz now serves as borough president.
The excitement came from it being a possible repeat of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dethroning of a powerful Democrat in local politics. (Caban is a fellow democratic socialist.) Like former Rep. Joe Crowley, Katz was tarred as a member of the Democratic machine, portrayed as a hotbed of moneyed interests.
Looking at their records, however, both were exemplary liberals. Katz herself had challenged the Queens organization, pushing it in more progressive directions. And she remembered the struggle of breaking into what was then an “old boys’ club.” Anyhow, whether they won or lost, neither Katz nor Crowley deserved to be trashed as racially unenlightened.
There was little difference between Katz’s and Caban’s platforms. Katz had the endorsement of unions and prominent African American political leaders. One is Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, whom AOC has threatened with a candidate of her own.
Under the thin veil of these progressive politics stands raw identity politics. When the vote totals first came in, Caban had an insignificant lead, given the 3,400 absentee and other ballots to be counted. Nonetheless, she immediately claimed victory as follows: “They said I didn’t look like a district attorney.”
Oh? Who said that? Surely, Caban was aware that the attorney general of New York, a statewide elective office, is held by Letitia James, an African American woman who is a lot darker than she is.
Caban’s other identity thing was being a “queer Latina.” My guess is that the number of Queens Democrats who gave a rat’s tail that she is gay is minuscule. The election of an outwardly homosexual candidate might be notable in some places. New York City is not one of them.
And since when is “queer Latina” a qualification for office? By the way, if we all voted our color, Barack Obama would never have become president.
The recount showed Katz to be the winner of the primary. Some have asked whether her victory represents something of a backlash to identity politics. Crowley probably lost because he didn’t take AOC seriously. But Katz’s supporters may have been on the alert to avoid a repeat.
A scholarly report titled “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” found political correctness, of which identity politics is a subcategory, to be widely unpopular. It is disliked by 82 percent of Asians, 87 percent of Hispanics, 79 percent of whites and about 75 percent of African Americans.
Identity politics is the enemy of Democrats. It’s time they dismissed its practitioners.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.