Monday, April 26, 2021

Identity Politics


I mean, what do you expect? This is what they do now. Doesn't make me think there's anything insincere about the campaign, just that policy isn't its subject matter. Even the merch isn't, though it's important, not so much as a fundraising strategy, I think, as a vehicle for expressing brand identification. 

I get a little dizzy trying to comprehend the way Republicans play identity politics, because it has different levels that seem superficially to contradict each other: they pick representatives from more or less marginal groups, sometimes relatively sober examples like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, sometimes really silly ones like this Caitlyn Jenner thing, and then get shocked and indignant with how the Black community, or the LGBTQ+ community, or whoever it might be, don't welcome them. 

Of course the next level is that Republicans really don't expect Black voters to swoon over Tim Scott, or tokens like Candace Owens or Dr. Ben Carson, who virulently oppose every policy that might assist the Black community; there's a real aim, to reassure Republican voters that voting Republican isn't racist. And on top of that, to criticize Black Democrats, who can't think independently but agree with whatever the party tells them to agree with, whereas Black Republicans are heroically contrarian. When Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Sanders lament the way feminists refuse to praise them, as moms fighting their way to success in the man's world of professional lying, it's the same thing: they're helping the party deny its misogyny.

But in precisely this way, Republicans practice identity politics to a degree Democrats wouldn't dare, in which ideology and policy issues fall away and the candidate's or token's identity is the only issue that matters. White South Carolina voters who putatively think the idea of a federal anti-lynching law is an abuse of states' rights don't mind that Tim Scott endorses Cory Booker's anti-lynching bill; it's his race that appeals to them, because voting for him owns the libs.

Nor will they be put off voting for transgender candidate Caitlyn Jenner, even if you show them video of her from 2016 entering a ladies' room (at the Trump International Hotel and Tower off Columbus Circle, no less) in spite of her being in Ben Shapiro's view a man who would probably permanently scar the psyches of any young gender-conforming women who happened to be there at the time. They'll vote for her—many of them will, and in the postpartisan madness of a California recall election (there are two simultaneous elections, one between yes and no on Governor Newsom, and one among all the candidates to succeed him), with four or five Republicans running alongside one or two Democrats in the succession race, it's plausible that somebody will win with a significantly smaller proportion of the votes than the 48.6% Arnold Schwarzenegger got in 2003—precisely because her identity, the one thing they know about her, makes her probably the most annoying to their enemies. 

And like Trump in the 2016 primary campaign, another no-content celebrity candidate, she might find that her very emptiness is a political advantage.

Speaking of Sarah Sanders, she's also engaged in a gubernatorial campaign, in Arkansas of course, which seems to play some mysterious role in this meat message, where one of her campaign just above the entrée fork (and possibly something else in the paper slip headed "Governor" behind the beer bottle). I don't know what that means, but it made me imagine a campaign ad in which she's pictured tearing into a four-pound steak. Please do that, Republicans, I'll feel so owned.

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