Monday, December 05, 2016

The Democratic Party's Scourge: Identity Politics


Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)-- the worst of the worst

Since 1964 more women have voted in presidential elections than men. In 2008, for example, 70.4 million women voted, compared to 60.7 million men. That's a big difference. 65.7% of eligible women voted but only 61.5% of eligible men. In the last House there were 84 women out of 365 members-- 22 Republicans (8.9% of their party) and 62 Democrats (33.0% of their party). Statistically, it's odd that over half the members of Congress aren't women. In the out-going Senate 20% of the members are women-- 6 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Starting next month, that percentage goes up to 22%-- 5 Republicans and 17 Democrats, including 4 new ones, Kamala Harris (CA), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) and Maggie Hassan (NH). There still hasn't been a woman president, although several women are prominently mentioned as 2020 candidates, starting with Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar. I want to see a woman president and I'd certainly support Elizabeth Warren with everything I could muster. The other two... not so much.

I know for me, for the sake of justice, if two candidates were exactly equal on the issues and on every other measurement scale from courageousness to electability-- something virtually impossible-- I would vote for the woman.

I'm gay. I'm proud that the highest lifetime crucial vote score of any member of Congress is Mark Pocan, a gay man. His ProgressivePunch score is 98.95. Does he rock! Unfortunately, the single worst voter of all members being returned in 2107 is also gay-- Arizona Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema, whose lifetime score is a an abysmal 36,63. And Sinema isn't the only LGBTQ person at the bottom on the garbage pile. Sean Patrick Maloney, currently making a bid for chairman of the DCCC, is not just a married gay man but also a New Dem Wall Street whore and the proud owner of 5th worst voting record score (45.19) among Democrats.

I don't vote for people based on identity politics. I know many people do. I was asked by a reporter recently why the heavily backed state Senator Isadore Hall was beaten by the relatively unknown Nanette Barragan in a South L.A. congressional district. I would have loved to have said that she is a progressive reformer and he is a corrupt conservative. She is and he is-- and I'm sure there were some voters who made up their minds based on that, though probably not enough to swing the election. This election probably swung because over 70% of of the people in CA-44 are Latinos and they registered and voted in record numbers-- inspired by El Presidente-elect Señor Trumpanzee-- and probably didn't know much about down-ballot candidates Nanette or Isadore but did recognize a Latino name and an Anglo name.

In California's Dem vs Dem Senate race, Kamala Harris beat Loretta Sanchez almost two to one-- 6,495,907 (62.4%) to 3,918,486 (37.6%). Harris was the heavily-backed establishment candidate and Sanchez was viewed as an interloper. No one really knows where Harris stands politically but people assume she's vaguely progressive. Sanchez is a Blue Dog who was endorsed by Darrell Issa and tried appealing to Republicans. Harris won every single county in the state, which may be a first. Sanchez was reasonably competitive in some tiny deep red Republican counties with meaninglessly small populations but she was racking up real votes in 6 sounties-- Kern (48.9%), Kings (47.0%), Madera (49.9%), Fresno (49.0%), Merced (47.7%) and Tulare (47.2%)-- which have big Latino populations but without strong Democratic establishment control of those populations. Many of those people voted for Sanchez because they didn't know squat about anyone but Trump and identified with her name.

At Salon over the weekend, Conor Lynch, addressed the albatross around Democrats' neck: identity politics.
The kind of self-serving identity politics that we saw from the Clinton camp during the Democratic primaries leads into what has been the most contentious debate among Democrats and progressives since the election: Whether the party has become too preoccupied with the politics of identity and political correctness, while straying too far from a class-based politics that addresses the structural inequities of capitalism. Not surprisingly, the debate has been full of deliberate misinterpretations.

Consider how various news outlets reported on comments made by Sanders on his book tour last week while discussing diversity in political leadership. “We need diversity, that goes without saying,” noted Sanders, who was responding to a question from a woman asking for tips on how to become the second Latina senator, after this year’s election of Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada. “But it is not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

From this comment, the New York Times reported that Sanders had said “Democrats need to focus more on economic struggles and less on the grievances of minorities and women,” while the popular liberal website Talking Points Memo posted the misleading headline: Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class. These reports are both founded on a false dichotomy pitting economic justice and civil rights against each other.

It is extremely troubling that appealing to young people, people of color, women and working-class whites is perceived as an either/or question, or that “economic struggles” and the “grievances of minorities and women” are seen as mutually exclusive. In reality, economic struggles and civil rights are deeply interconnected. Women and people of color, for example, are much more likely to suffer disproportionately from poverty and economic inequality, while young voters who care deeply about social issues are currently facing crushing student loan debt, a subpar job market and low social mobility.

This illustrates the real problem with modern liberalism. Not that it is too preoccupied with promoting diversity or ending all forms of discrimination-- there is really no disagreement on the left that these are vitally important goals-- but that these efforts and achievements are often used to mask or divert attention from the deeper structural problems of our economic and political systems.

The fact that Goldman Sachs has been a leader in promoting diversity and inclusivity in its workforce, for example, should not comfort anyone when the same firm committed massive fraud leading up to the financial crisis and is still led by the same CEO, who recently entered the billionaire’s club. When Hillary Clinton gave her notorious $225,000 speeches for Goldman Sachs, it is reported that she lavished praise on the firm’s diversity and the prominent roles played by women in its internal hierarchy. She did not, however, talk about Goldman’s role in exacerbating the financial crisis or the way the firm committed massive securities fraud and reaped billions of dollars in profit, let alone the fact that none of the firm’s top executives faced any criminal prosecution for their misdeeds.

This is the liberalism that failed to stop Trump. This is the liberalism that self-servingly exploited identity politics to protect an establishment candidate whose severe flaws were evident long before the 2016 campaign began. This is the liberalism that must be overcome, and the sooner the better.
I voted for Obama in 2008 because he was black. I knew his less-than-admirable record in the Illinois state legislature and in the U.S. Senate and he wasn't my kind of candidate. But he wasn't terrible either, just OK. But, I felt it would be worth giving him some slack because even if he didn't turn into a president as great as his rhetoric, he would be a much-needed inspiration for millions of young children of color. In 2012, though, I voted for Jill Stein.

Barbara Lee is one of the most inspiring members of Congress. Is it because she's from Oakland? Is it because she grew up in El Paso? Is it because she's black? Is it because she's a woman? Those are things that may have all contributed to why I respect and admire her so, but the reason why I respect and admire her isn't because of those factors. It's because of her record-- her voting record and her courageousness. Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA) is black too. He's also one of the worst and most corrupt members of Congress. There are reasons to vote for people and reasons to oppose people. It's not because of their race, their nationality, gender, religion or what team they root for. People have records; get to know them before you vote. Being a Republican probably means a candidate is horrible. Being a Democrat doesn't mean the opposite. At least half the Democratic members of Congress aren't even worth voting for-- and that number continues to grow.

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