“Black Lives Matter.” “Gender exists on a spectrum.” “Check your privilege.” The plethora of social justice causes are bolstered by purely identity based sentiments. Identity politics have taken a sovereign place among American politics, when the concept is really just a bastard child of democracy.
Political division runs much further than racial and gender lines. The utilization of identity politics only serves to fortify the concept that individuals have inherent traits according to their identification, be it self-proclaimed or otherwise inhabited. The stigma of labels and conformity are withheld in the name of identity politics, when in reality, it is the essence of this very concept.
Forcing Americans to fit into boxes runs contrary to what today’s liberal voices screech out against. After all, identity politics is dead. It’s essentially useless. So why do we keep pretending like it’s alive and well?
An article from The Atlantic argues its death was made final by the 2016 election. Democrats didn’t expect Donald Trump to succeed primarily because the voter turnout of “old white conservative men” would be less than young, vibrant millennials, holding up “I’m With Her” signs.
Several news outlets reported that the millennial vote could sway the election so significantly it would surpass the effect of the baby boomers. If all of the millennials went out and cast their vote, Hillary Clinton would be sure to win. The problem with that theory: millennials are not a homogenous group. According to the Brookings Institute, Trump’s millennial electorate consisted of one third of his overall votes.
I for one, as a Hispanic, Native American, female millennial, abhorred the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming the next president of the United States. I had no disdain for her wealth, her race, her gender, or anything pertaining to her identity. My objection was a genuine disagreement and disappointment in her policies and actions.
Where were these notorious identity politics in my decision? The answer is there weren’t any. I would argue that not even my political affiliation played a role. Had there been a decent candidate on the other ticket, I wouldn’t have hesitated to cast my vote for that individual.
American exceptionalism is rooted in self-determination of the individual. If the United States is to be truly hailed for its diversity and dynamism, the first step is for American society to stop silencing the voices that it cannot utilize for its own social and political agenda.