Sunday, January 27

Identity Politics

Periodically, I'll highlight questions and comments sent to me that I think will promote good discussion and cause us all to think through our convictions. This is a great question that was posted by a reader yesterday:

I'm curious to know people's thoughts on identity-based politics. For example, for the Huckabee supporters here, do you find yourself more inclined to vote for him because of his identification as an Evangelical Christian or would you feel the same about him if he were of a different faith?

Assuming his identification is a factor, do you encourage other voters who might share an identify with another candidate, based on gender, race, religion, or whatever, to likewise vote on that basis?

I'm sure everyone can find other reasons to vote for particular candidates, but it seems like identity is a significant factor behind several of the candidates' support. I'm just curious to hear people's thoughts on the issue and whether identity politics is viewed as a good, bad, or neutral political dynamic. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a registered democrat, white male (non-mom), leaning toward Obama.

What are your thoughts? How do you see the issue of Identity Politics?


Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous (aka non-mom white male), I do believe that it is okay (and can't really be helped) to vote based upon one's identity, as long as that candidate you identify with (whether it be race, gender, religion, etc.) has beliefs or a plan (economically, etc.) for his or her presidency that line up with what you believe.

For what reasons are you leaning toward Obama right now? My full disclosure: white female, non-mom, registered republican, probably Huckabee but not sure yet.

Livin' Life said...

I personally connect with the candidates convictions and their stand on the issues more than identity. Race and gender are not factors in my eyes. Faith and religion are important. I need to know how the candidate feels about human life and religious freedom. I also way heavily their stand on the major issues facing our nation: War in Iraq, health care, global warming, national security. Being a registered republican does not always make me jump on any ones band wagon I need to know all the facts before making my vote.

Jill said...

I think we do tend to vote with candidates that we can identify with in some way. However, I don't think it is always good and sometimes can cloud our judgment when picking a candidate.

As a responsible voter, I do need to detach myself enough from that identifying factor so I can evaluate objectively all candidates on the issues.

Back in the late 70s Democrat Jimmy Carter was touted as a conservative, Christian candidate. Voters who relied on that one identifying factor helped elect a very ineffective president.

Anonymous said...

I think it's difficult to not allow identification to play a role in selecting a candidate, just like we tend to surround ourselves socially with people similar to ourselves. It's just a natural human instinct. In politics, however, I think a conscience effort is required to think beyond personal identification and consider which candidate can best represent a country as diverse as ours. It's not enough for the candidate to represent me, as much as his/her ability to represent we. Political history is littered with candidates that appealed to very narrow constituencies based on identity (i.e., Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson). That's not to say that these candidates don't contribute to the political dialog, but at the end of the day their identities are so strongly connected to a particular group that they're unable to connect with the broad spectrum of voters needed to win a general election and to effectively govern the country. Being beholden to our particular identity group can cloud our ability to see the candidate that can most effectively reach out create coalitions across identities.

I think many people see Huckabee and McCain as those candidates on the Republican side. Although, I wonder if Huckabee's strong association with being the "Evagelical Christian" candidate is too much for him to transcend and connect with voters who don't identify with that group. For me, McCain seems like the better choice on the Republican side.

Shelley said...

It's obviously a factor, considering that Obama got 80% of the African-American vote on Super Tuesday, and Hillary got a majority of the female vote. I think it's just human nature to go with someone who you see as being like yourself. I bucked the system though, and went Obama. :)


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