Letter to the Editor


Because of the breadth of this 800-word, meandering, and frankly long-winded column, I will here respond to just one of the points the columnist brings up.

First, the pattern of voting behavior the columnist describes is not called identity politics. Identity politics is a phenomenon not of the candidate, but of the voter; identity politics is the individual’s abandonment of the common political good for the sake of their group’s, the idea that “I vote Republican not because of my experience, or my policy, not because I like the candidate or hate the alternative, not because I believe the candidate will for good reshape the nation in my image, but because I’m a Christian, and I believe he’ll reshape it in God’s.” Both parties benefit from this way of thinking, which won’t mark the end of American politics.

While identity politics isn’t exactly a positive thing, the candidate-based phenomenon described by the columnist is far more alarming: “It’s when candidates are chosen not because of their agenda, but because of their sex, race, religion or any other of the descriptive boundaries set to divide our nation…” The columnist claims that, in fact, every Democratic presidential candidate for the last decade has received “a majority” of their votes only because of their race or sex; moreover, that Republican candidates are completely immune to this, that they draw all of their voters to their banner with reason and facts, the Republican party holding a monopoly on logic, a glowing city on a hill surrounded by ignorant, quinoa-cloaked barbarians.

To unpack the entire column as it is written here, I base my assumptions on a single premise, supported by the quotations above: it is so difficult for this columnist to understand the other side of the debate that he would sooner believe that people vote for Democrats not for their policies, but for their identity, than believe that Democrats have a cohesive, well-thought-out platform, or that that platform has wide appeal among the American population, or that Democrats believe in that platform as fervently, as singly, and, indeed, as logically as Republicans believe in theirs. Is it so hard to believe that a different point of view exists? That there are different lenses through which one might see the world? That dedication to capitalism is not universal, no more than belief in the inextricable link between it and liberty?

If it is, then politics, with all its nuance and frustrating lack of a moral center, is lost on the columnist. He studies some other science, one where right and wrong don’t cloak themselves in misery, where the worldview it presents to the student is written in black and white ink, its lens so unfocused as to blend all complexity, personality, and introspective effort into two blobs, pure white on one side and pitch black on the other. Many Americans are well versed in this science, enough to create a pervasively hostile political environment, an environment that columns like this serve only to perpetuate.