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Friday, January 25, 2008

Identity Politics

Identity politics is a term with which I have only recently become acquainted. The concept I have been familiar with I simply was not aware there was a term identifying the concept. Identity politics is voting for someone because you have an identity with them. Examples:

Black people voting for someone because they are black.
Women voting for someone because they are a woman.
White males voting for someone because they are a white male.

Most of us are probably appalled at people who cast their vote for such shallow reasons. If you are like me you believe a vote should be issue driven. It really should not even be party driven. Voting for a Republican candidate just because they are Republican. While each voter has and should have the liberty to vote based upon what ever criteria they decide upon I am afraid that some people do not stop to listen to their candidate. In fact I know some people don't. They just assume that because they are black then they will naturally embrace their views. If they are a woman then they will naturally embrace the feminine view.

I raise the issue for two reasons. Mike Huckabee's support among evangelicals and a poll referenced last night in the debate indicating that 40 something percent of Americans did not think a Mormon would be a good President.

In both cases I think identity politics are at work, in one case in a positive direction in the other a negative direction. I am going to vote for Hucakabee because he is a Christian, an evangelical, this is identity politics exercised in a positive direction. I am not going to vote for Romney because he is a Mormon, this is identity politics in a negative direction. I think both of these men should be examined based on the issues. Where do they stand. If Hucakabee were elected President he will not make America a Baptist nation, nor should he. If Romney were elected President he would not make America a Mormon nation, nor should he.

Listening to Hucakabee I hear a lot of the same kind of language used by Democrats. Last night for example when he engaged in class warfare pitting the wealthy against the poor. Just because he says he is a Christian does not mean he would make a good President. Just because he is a Southern Baptist does not mean he would be a good President. Just because he was a Pastor in his past life does not mean he would be a good President. We have elected two other Southern Baptists in the last 30 years and neither of them were very good Presidents. Carter came on the scene claiming to be a born again Christian. People went out in droves and voted for him in 1976 and four years later voted against him. He made a very bad President. I am afraid people did not take the time to listen to what he was saying, examining his record, paying attention to the issues. All they heard was, "I am a born again Christian" and they said so am I and they went out and voted for him. Of course it probably had something to do with the fact that he was running against Gerald Ford who had pardoned Richard Nixon. Nevertheless, as I think back on that election I think it was largely driven by identity politics.

What about Mitt Romney? I do not agree with the Mormon faith, in fact I stand opposed to it. I do not consider the Mormon faith to be a Christian religion. I know a little bit about the Mormon faith. I have done some reading and had a few opportunities to interact with them concerning spiritual issues. They have got it wrong. But, I am not voting for a religion but for a set of issues. Consequently I want to vote for the person who embraces and has the right stand on the issues that are important to me.

Someone who is for:

Protection of human life
Opposed to gay marriage
Strong military
Securing the borders
Smaller government
Reduced spending
Lower taxes
Appoint strict constitutionalists judges
Committed to defeating terrorism
Defending second amendment liberties
and, Reducing regulation among other things.

The person who comes closest to espousing these views will probably get my vote. This typically rules out Democrats. So I find myself looking on the Republican side for someone who embraces these things in a conservative fashion.

If there is a Baptist running who I do not think believes like I do on these things compared to a Catholic, Protestant, or Mormon who does believe like me on these things I think I would have to vote for the Catholic/Protestant/Mormon before the Baptist. I am scrutinizing the principles they hold to more than the path they took to get there.

Herein lies one of the reasons I could probably never be more involved in politics than supporting candidates and casting votes. It seems to demand compromise. In casting my vote I suppose I have determined to let issues be the guide and to whatever candidate they lead me it is there I will cast my vote.

It is beginning to look as though when Texas votes in March that it will be a two man race, Romney vs. McCain. McCain says he supports my positions but he has spent the last 10 years working against them. Romney says he support my positions although he is a recent convert to some of them. I am not completely thrilled with either choice but I believe Romney more than I do McCain so at this point he will likely get my support. My vote (in the primary and the general election) will be cast without the same level of enthusiasm as in some past elections. It will probably be like voting for Bob Dole in 1996.

Maybe I am all "washed up" here but it seems like the practicing of identity politics is troublesome no matter how it is applied, whether in race, gender, or religion, whether positively or negatively.
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