Posted by: CJ | February 3, 2010

Identity politics isn’t just about the “undesirables”

For awhile now, at least since my move to the west coast, I’ve believed that too many (voting) Americans don’t understand how diverse their country is. And, in particular, don’t truly comprehend how wide an array of viewpoints exist in this country. A consequence is that too many (voting) Americans believe that everybody holds similar opinions to the opinions held in their social networks. Well, that’s obviously not quite right. What they really think is that everybody that should count, everyone that is a true American, believes something close to what they believe. And, specifically, everyone who disagrees is some sort of minority.

This has, I think, a big consequence in who we elect in state or, even more especially, federal offices. And in what policies we think are necessary/acceptable at the state and federal level. Some groups are well aware that their viewpoints are minority viewpoints. So they “merely” want policies that take them into account and leaders that they feel understand their needs and concerns. I think this group includes, for example, ethnic minorities and single mothers. Other groups are unaware of the extent to which their views, concerns, and modes of thinking are not “True America”. So these groups are deeply unsatisfied with candidates and policies which are not designed largely, if not entirely, around their concerns and conforming to their worldview. I think a big problem in America right now is there are several distinct groups like this right now. There’s suburban middle class and urban middle class, working class and college-educated class, seniors and yuppies etc. Basically, different hues of white America.

I’ll note that what I’m talking about is slightly different from just saying there’s a liberal/conservative divide in America. I’m saying that because people understand who’s in America different, and because of our very separated but distinct cultures, we’re electing candidates and encouraging policies that have almost no middle ground.

I think that in the end this will be a very bad thing. (Of course, it doesn’t help this issue that when a Democratic president and Congress try to be fiscally responsible and enact good policies, some of the major funding cuts and initiatives seem to target suburbia and not target “the others” enough.)

Anyways, the above is, essentially, what this BBC article on voting against one’s economic interests made me think of. People in the midwest I know aren’t voting for conservative candidates because of their politics, exactly. They’re voting for them because they think of them culture as the dominant culture, and they don’t recognize the other guys as one of them.



  1. Yes–and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Add in the people who sometimes vote, but are not even as rational or consistent as you imply they may be. Those are the people who are influenced by ads, buzz, friends, etc, without even considering the core values or specific issues.

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