The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Identity Politics

As the DNC kicks off today, it's amusing to watch the party's big shots scramble to contain the Wikileaks email dump and what it says about the inner workings of the party's elite. The leaders of the Democratic National Committee decided that Bernie Sanders was NOT going to win and sent around emails suggesting methods for ensuring that result. The party's national chairwoman has been forced to resign (and immediately be given a paid position on the Clinton campaign), while the media seems conflicted about covering a juicy "scandal" (this is not really a scandal, but rather a tempest in a teapot) on the one hand and acting as surrogates for Hillary on the other. The media will bury this episode as soon as they can do so, but not without justified anger by the Sanders delegates.

In what has to be one of the more outrageous anti-Trump allegations, party big shots are suggesting the the Russians are behind this and that Donald Trump is in league with Vlad Putin. If Trump and Putin are buddies, wouldn't that be a good thing? After all, Hillary tried to make nicey-nice with Putin with her failed "Reset" (just one of many of her foreign policy failures) just before the Russian invasion of the Crimea. Maybe Trump and Putin, if they are buds, might accomplish something meaningful, like crushing ISIS once and for all. Besides, the Dems better hope that Russian involvement is minimal, because if it isn't, it's 99.999% certain the Russians have Hillary's 30,000 deleted emails and can release them at any time. Think of the blackmail possibilities!

As the DNC unfolds, we'll see the Democrat party's identity politics strategy in full bloom. Their operative phrase, "Let's Make History, Again!" recalls the election of the first African American to the presidency in 2008. Unfortunately, all that mattered then was Barack Obama's identity as an African American—not his experience, his accomplishments, his ideology, or his temperament. The "Again" part focuses on Hillary. We should mindlessly consider only her identity as a the first woman president—not her dishonesty, her proximity to corruption, or her incompetence. Hmmm, sound familiar?

But identity politics goes deeper than that. The Democrats are hard at work slicing and dicing the electorate into increasing narrow groups, often pitting one again another. Oren Cass explains:
Framing issues as who instead of what leads to a governing model that would divide society by race, gender, sexuality, profession, and location, targeting policies to each defined demographic. A divide-and-conquer strategy may achieve electoral success, but it is toxic to good government. When politicians treat elections as exercises in log-rolling, each policy becomes tailored toward the special interest that cares about it most. Thus Clinton’s crime policy emphasizes a friendlier attitude toward criminals. Her immigration policy concerns itself primarily with helping those who have violated immigration law. Her education policy explicitly endorses the status quo for most students but promises to “listen to teachers.”

In a world of fixed resources, such a model inevitably undermines the idea of equal protection under the law, pits groups against one another, and leaves some explicitly favored by government as winners. It also normalizes subjective standards for government action. Clinton promises to extend President Obama’s executive actions on immigration to “additional persons with sympathetic cases.” Whatever one thinks of our immigration policies, tilting them toward “persons with sympathetic cases” does not suggest rigorous application of the law.

The divisiveness encouraged during the Obama years has much to do with this form of identity politics. It's always us vs. them, always one group (Latins, blacks, women, college students, union members, gay people, etc.) expressing grievances that can only be remedied by Big Government entitlements and policies.

The Democrat identity politics strategy has worked remarkably well, and it will likely work again this election year. The only problem is that it's bad for the country and bad for the identity groups who take short term giveaways but fail to see the long term damage to them, their needs, and their future.


There are some interesting tidbits in the hacked DNC emails. The Dems love to characterize themselves as the party of the people. Here's how "the people" can gain access to party big shots, as described in hacked emails and summarized by Lachlan Markey:
Corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals can buy access to top Democratic policymakers at the party’s convention in Philadelphia this week, according to internal documents detailing the perks that the party is offering to its wealthiest donors.

Political action committees that gave $90,000 to the Democratic National Committee between January 2015 and June 2016 will get two tickets to an “exclusive roundtable and campaign briefing with high-level Democratic officials,” the documents reveal.

Political groups that donated at least $150,000 will get four tickets instead of two. Native American tribes can get five tickets, but they must have donated at least $200,000.

PACs that gave at least $30,000 will also get access to “business roundtables and industry panels throughout the Convention.”

While corporate support for party conventions is commonplace, the documents reveal the specific benefits being offered to the Democratic Party’s wealthiest supporters as they gather to officially nominate Hillary Clinton for president.

Those benefits will include opportunities to advance donors’ interests in closed-door meetings with top policymakers, even as Clinton decries the influence of money in the American political process.
Odd that the little people, you know, blue collar workers, suburban middle class taxpayers, the poor, just don't seem to have the same levels of access.

But don't worry. Hillary really, really, really cares about each and every one. In fact, she'll fight for them. Won't she?