Politics and Identity
Barring any surprises at the upcoming conventions it would appear that the two major political parties of our country have settled on the candidates that they will foist upon us for the upcoming election. Another party which has been marginalized in previous elections, the Libertarians, have already held their convention and made their choice official. The Libertarians are unlikely to prevail as the ultimate victor in November’s contest, but they do seem poised to be a significant factor in this election cycle. This is not meant to serve as an endorsement of Gary Johnson, their candidate, but there is a sound case for giving the Libertarians a more serious look.
In choosing candidates one finds that it is a proposition rather like choosing a pair of eyeglasses. If you have the misfortune of requiring corrective lenses it is something that can not be avoided, a necessary evil as it were. Yet no matter how many pairs are examined there is not that perfect pair. The root problem being that no one given the choice actually wants to have to wear them. Many pairs may satisfy certain criteria yet each leave something wanting. They may be too large for the face. Or too small. They may look too “old” or be too heavy. A pair may rest comfortably upon the nose but pinch at the earpieces. If your vision is deficient you must have them so absent that perfect pair one settles upon that which is the least objectionable. The big difference, however, is that eyeglasses are a subjective matter. They are chosen to satisfy one’s own needs and wants and no one else’s. Aside from how they may appear to others the choice affects no one but the wearer.
When I was young television and radio were still free for the most part. There were only so many networks or stations available to choose from. These networks determined the content and put it out over the airwaves in a one size fits all fashion. As long as sponsors were willing to pony up their advertising dollars they were in business. It wasn’t necessary to cater to each and every demographic. If nothing suited your tastes then you simply tuned out and found something else with which to amuse yourself. Today there are a myriad of choices to cater to even the narrowest audience. This phenomenon has crept into our electoral process in the form of identity politics.
The major political parties, like the old network television regimes, still decide which content they will approve for broadcasting. They still want to maintain control of the broadcast so rather than permit the formation of more choices they have instead found ways to appeal to the narrow constituency, the single issue voter. Within their broader platforms each party tries to cater to these disparate components to form the loose coalition of voting blocs which ultimately make up their constituency. We begin to hear a lot of talk now of uniting the parties, but not the country. This should come as little surprise since the preservation of said parties is best achieved by maintaining the divisiveness of identity politics.
One of the most egregious forms of identity politics is the Democrat party’s incessant proclamation that they and they alone are the standard bearer for “women’s” issues. This is frequently accepted as a political orthodoxy by many and wholeheartedly embraced as gospel by some. It does not require a great deal of reasoning to find the flaw in this argument. With some imbalances within certain geographies there is in the aggregate of our population a slight numerical edge in the ratio of female to male citizenry. For arguments sake let us say that women make up one half of our population. Now in nearly every election in recent years, as a percentage of the popular vote, the winner has attained victory by securing just a little better than 50% of the vote. In a few instances even less. We also know that as a proportion of the voting eligible population the total vote has not approached the 50% mark of the overall population for many a year. Still, it may be reasonably safe to presume that maintaining some degree of proportionality the total number of votes cast in any given election will be represented by roughly 50% female voters. A rational and honest examination of these figures negates the proposition that females are a monolithic voting bloc. And yet somehow this notion is continually posited and frequently accepted.
Even if one were to accept the premise it still bears a little more thoughtful examination. Let us assume for a moment that it were possible to attain a 100% turnout of eligible voters in an election. Given that the female to male ratio in the voting eligible population translates into this equation one could say with a reasonable certainty that at least 50% of these voters would be women. If as in most elections the winning margin is fifty-point-something percent of the electorate and that women did indeed vote as a monolithic bloc, does this constitute any less of a majority? The point here is quite simple, really. At slightly better than 50% of the overall population what is in the best interest of women is, for the most part, in the best interest of all, is it not? Women may have more of an interest in issues of reproductive rights and pay equity, but there is just as much at stake for women in such issues as responsible fiscal policy, economic prosperity and national security as there is for their male counterparts. Given the growing trend of women as the majority, if indeed not the sole breadwinner in a household these are all the more true. The suggestion that only one party’s platform represents the best interests of women is just as insulting and as patently absurd as the suggestion that every citizen of African descent has a preference for watermelons over apples. Try getting away with that one. And yet the assertion by the Democrats that they are the sole guardians of women’s rights is no less ridiculous.
We will see in the coming months an escalation of the rhetoric of identity politics. We will be pitted male against female, black against white, rich against poor. Anyone challenging the orthodoxy will be branded as a hater or bigot with no amplifier granted to those voices of an opposing viewpoint. The debate will revolve around those policies and actions of our federal government for which they are not constitutionally empowered while distracting from their abysmal failure to fulfill those tasks for which they are. When we all find ourselves up to our ears in excrement the identity politics won’t much matter.
As an overall consumer market Americans have forced the news and entertainment mediums to respond to the demand for more choices by offering just that: more choices. To watch the machinations of the party hierarchies throughout this primary season it should be obvious that they have no intention or desire to do this. Whether one happens to side with one or the other the phenomenon of both the Trump and Sanders candidacies should be a clear indicator. Perhaps it is time that we should all take a closer look at the third network. There won’t be any significant change in the broadcast until we do.