Politics in America today is identity politics. The two concepts are completely congruent. That is not to say that identity is all that matters in politics but it is the biggest consideration by far. Although this is nothing new, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign elevated it to new heights with the campaign slogan “Hope and Change.” Hope and change for whom? For those who believed that they had been left behind in the pursuit of the American dream. For the ones wanting their fair share. Yep. That campaign engineered a de-facto coalition of all those who felt left out and empowered them with a simple slogan, rallying them behind a man that would be twice elected to the highest office in the land.
Was that the most important issue eight years ago? Many would point to the economy’s death spiral. Others the wars in the middle east. Those and other issues top of mind for other Americans simply could not compete with populist message “Hope and Change”. Obama won, twice. Now, identity politics is forefront again with Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, and Bernie Sanders’ less specific but no less appealing pitch, “free stuff for everyone”. Hillary has been trying to craft her own identity message but so far it’s been a muddled stew of second wave feminism and “Hi. I’m grandma.” The pack of alleged scandals that follow her around like hungry puppies also keeps her messages from coalescing into anything that voters can hang their emotional hats on.
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul and others have built their campaigns on reasoned solutions to the very real issues facing the country. Things like the national debt, immigration, terrorism, and the list goes on. Two thirds of Americans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction and there are substantive issues that must be addressed with specific plans if this trend is to be reversed. But most voters don’t care about simplifying the federal tax code, putting more people back to work or reducing the national debt. They just want to be great again with more free stuff, or something.
TheBlaze radio’s Mike Slater uttered what is an inarguable truth vying for the voters’ hearts and minds this election season, especially those captivated by identity politics. Mike said, “Identity beats analogy. Analogy beats reason. Reason beats nothing.” I had to listen to that one again. Sadly, he is right.
Identity wins every time, and analogies are powerful tools in support of its message. When Barack Obama stumped for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), his stories about individuals and families devastated by medical bills and how the ACA would end the financial oppression lent powerful support to his message of hope and change. Reason was never brought into this discussion by those in support of the ACA because in reality, no one would have really cared about any facts or logical plans underneath it. They just wanted hope and change for their medical care, and it worked there as it has for a host of other issues for the Obama administration.
Identity beats analogy. Analogy beats reason. Reason beats nothing.
For those voters still driven by the issues and drawn to those candidates with solid, sound plans this is a meal of cold porridge. And, unfortunately, it’s the only thing on the menu. The truth is that most voters invest as much thought in their selection of candidates at all levels as a football fan does before he shouts, “Go Bears” or “effing Niners.” “He/she’s on my team, dammit, and I’m in ’til the end.” That’s great if you’re a Cubs fan hoping the team gets rings this season but it’s a foolish way to pick the latest round of governmental leaders.
This is the world in which we live today.