Dems must drop iden­tity pol­i­tics

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Froma Har­rop Froma Har­rop is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

What fol­lows here is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to what I had planned to write after an ex­pected and prayed-for Hil­lary Clin­ton vic­tory: Ob­ses­sive ap­peals to racial, eth­nic, sex­ual and gen­der iden­tity group­ings are bad pol­i­tics. That’s be­cause at a cer­tain point, “in­clu­siv­ity” takes on the air of ex­clu­siv­ity.

Clin­ton’s fer­vent mes­sag­ing to Lati­nos, African-Amer­i­cans, Asians, Mus­lims, the LGBT com­mu­nity and women went be­yond the usual tar­get­ing. It drowned out her eco­nomic plat­form, which would have done so much more for the strug­gling white work­ers who chose Don­ald Trump than the Trump pres­i­dency is about to do.

In the elec­tion post-mortem, Rep. Ruben Gal­lego, an Ari­zona Demo­crat, put it well: “I think there is a com­mon in­ter­est in our eco­nomic poli­cies be­tween the laid­off white worker in Flint, the African-Amer­i­can and the Latino in Phoenix.”

One could ar­gue that Trump played white iden­tity pol­i­tics. The his­tory of white na­tion­al­ism is ugly, to be sure. But peo­ple get con­fused when “Black Lives Mat­ter” is deemed as ac­cept­able and “All Lives Mat­ter” as racist.

Re­cent me­dia at­ten­tion has cen­tered on the ex­tra­or­di­nary polic­ing of speech on col­lege cam­puses — from strict rules on what one may say to ap­pro­pri­ate dress for Hal­loween. I find a lot of it bizarre, but many take it per­son­ally.

Con­sider the con­cept of “white male priv­i­lege.” I know what they’re get­ting at — that well-todo white stu­dents of­ten have ac­cess to con­tacts and investment money that poor stu­dents of color do not. But try to ex­plain “white male priv­i­lege” to less ed­u­cated white males suf­fer­ing se­vere eco­nomic loss.

The idea that a fe­male stu­dent can be as drunk as her male part­ner, say yes to sex but then charge rape the morn­ing after is in­co­her­ent. Ev­ery charge of sex­ual as­sault should be in­ves­ti­gated and only then judged valid or not. And when rape does oc­cur, women should call po­lice, not the dean of stu­dent af­fairs.

A back­lash was in­evitable, and it came from many col­lege-ed­u­cated white men re­sent­ing the dou­ble stan­dards and their near de­mo­niza­tion. Too bad the ve­hi­cle for the re­ac­tion had to be a re­pul­sive can­di­date for pres­i­dent.

Im­mi­gra­tion. When Democrats don’t take a firm stand against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, they leave a wide-open high­way for fig­ures like Trump to push cru­elty as the only so­lu­tion. To­day’s im­mi­gra­tion laws were not de­signed to en­sure racial pu­rity but meant to pro­vide la­bor where needed and pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble work­ers.

Why, when Clin­ton called for giv­ing le­gal sta­tus to most un­doc­u­mented work­ers, did she fail to em­pha­size that com­pre­hen­sive re­form also means strength­en­ing en­force­ment to stop fu­ture il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion?

Heaven knows Trump’s vi­cious at­tacks on Mex­i­cans gave Clin­ton plenty of room with Latino ac­tivists to talk up en­force­ment. And want­ing an or­derly im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem does not make one a racist.

Canada and Aus­tralia have big, gen­er­ous im­mi­gra­tion pro­grams. Nei­ther tol­er­ates il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, and they don’t apol­o­gize for send­ing home those who en­ter with­out pa­pers.

With Trump, poor whites got val­i­da­tion, but at the price of less se­cu­rity. Trump now in­sists that folks us­ing Oba­macare will not lose cov­er­age. But if he lets healthy peo­ple opt out of par­tic­i­pat­ing — cur­rently his and the of­fi­cial Repub­li­can po­si­tion — the in­sur­ance pool will col­lapse. Guar­an­teed cov­er­age will dis­ap­pear or be­come wildly more ex­pen­sive. Or cov­er­age for the work­ing and mid­dle classes will be turned into a shabby wel­fare pro­gram.

It will never be for­got­ten that Clin­ton won the pop­u­lar vote by well over 600,000 votes. Had the votes been dis­trib­uted a lit­tle dif­fer­ently across state lines, she’d now be pres­i­dent-elect and I’d be de­lighted. But this cri­tique would still stand.

It should have been ob­vi­ous be­fore. It’s ob­vi­ous now. Iden­tity pol­i­tics are not good for the coun­try. They’re not even good pol­i­tics.

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