Identity Politics: Playing a Rigged Game

There’s an odd phenomenon afoot in the conservative movement. Apparently we believe that we can beat the Left at their own game: Identity Politics.

Bruce Jenner acts out his gender dysphoria on the world stage, and since he also announces that he is a Republican, many conservatives decide they will embrace his confusion while patting themselves on the back for their tolerance. We’ll beat them at their own game.

Ben Carson provides a Rorschach Blot candidacy, a quixotic campaign with little else to distinguish it beyond the fact that the candidate is a black man who styles himself as a conservative. That his candidacy has as much chance of electoral success as a snowball in hell is of no consequence. By embracing a black candidate we are signaling that we are not, as the Left never tires of telling us, a party of racists. We’ll beat them at their own game.

We survey the field of Republican presidential candidates and squeal in delight that, for a moment at least, it is more racially-diverse than the Democratic field. Ha ha ha! We’ll beat them at their own game.

And then we mock the Democratic front runner’s age, as well. We’ll beat them at their own game.

And so on and so forth. The recurring theme is that we will fight fire with fire, turn Leftist narratives back on themselves, highlight the Left’s hypocrisy, and function as an army of mini-Breitbarts. Onward conservative warriors! We’ll beat them at their own game.

If only.

Here’s the rub: It won’t work, and it will backfire. It is backfiring now.

Identity politics are a peculiarly Leftist, and particularly toxic, implicit rejection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “content of character”:

Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. discussed identity politics extensively in his book The Disuniting of America. Schlesinger, a strong supporter of liberal conceptions of civil rights, argues that a liberal democracy requires a common basis for culture and society to function.

In his view, basing politics on group marginalization fractures the civil polity, and therefore works against creating real opportunities for ending marginalization. Schlesinger believes that “movements for civil rights should aim toward full acceptance and integration of marginalized groups into the mainstream culture, rather than…perpetuating that marginalization through affirmations of difference.”

As Dennis Prager puts it, “Out of many, one” has become “Out of one, many.” And when we play the identity politics game, we accelerate that Balkanizing political devolution.

Rather than explicitly confronting and overturning identity politics, we tacitly accept the Left’s field of argument; to win a few emotionally-satisfying battles, we give up any hope of winning the war.

Conservatism is about nothing if not content of character. We would do well to remember it, when we feel tempted to carelessly buy into Leftist narratives.

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One Response to Identity Politics: Playing a Rigged Game

  1. Teresa Hutchison says:

    You are right. The temptation to throw their tactics back in their faces is understandable, but, in the end, probably futile. If it would get them to stop, it might be useful to do. However, I do think the left are married to the practice of identity politics.

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