Identity Politics: squabbling factions

by Fred Elbel

Theodore Roosevelt observed:

The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.

Former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm similarly observed that It is a Blessing for an Individual to be Bilingual; It is a Curse for a Society to be Bilingual.

Yet Identity Politics fragments society more deeply than does national origin, which accedes over time to assimilation.

Identity Politics is defined by as "political activity or movements based on or catering to the cultural, ethnic, gender, racial, religious, or social interests that characterize a group identity."

Rational Wiki expands on the definition:

Identity Politics as a political style that focuses on the issues relevant to various groups defined by a wide variety of shared characteristics, including, but not limited to, race, social class, religion, sex, gender, ethnicity, ideology, nationality, sexual orientation, gender expression, culture, currency, shared history, medical conditions, profession, and other of the many ways in which people differ from each other, and into which they may be classified or classify themselves.

Appeal to these shared commonalities, or disdain for similarly constituted groups seen as undesirable or aberrant, has likely been a feature of primate politics since before the emergence of Homo sapiens. It is not obvious from the broadest definition, but identity politics as usually understood under the label is a variant of Marxism, and as such it is a political style strongly associated with the hard political left.

Identity politics is distinguishable from political nationalism. A nationalist political movement asserts the unity of an ethnic identity and its entitlement to dominate a territory. Identity politics, by contrast, arises out of the universalist claims of Western democracies that embraced capitalism to at least some extent...

A universal assumption is that certain identity groups that are alleged to be historically oppressed are granted automatic moral worth and sympathy as a result. Who is chosen as the most deserving will of course depend on your perspective.

Wikia observes that: "identity politics means more than the sole recognition of social identity such as religion, ethnicity, or culture. Rather, identity politics seeks to carry this social identity forward, beyond mere self-identification, to a political framework based upon that identity..."

Identity Politics thus attempts to facilitate group empowerment by asserting group difference rather than equality. Identity Politics typically embraces real or imagined group victimhood and oppression by the dominant culture or race. Identity based groups typically strive to accentuate their differences from society rather than strive for equality within society.

Another aspect of identity politics is that it is used to obfuscate an ongoing class war. This was the case when, during the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton lambasted millions of voters as "a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic - you name it". Race and gender of identity politics was used to conceal the ongoing and hugely important conflict between globalist elites and patriotic nationalists.

History of Identity Politics

A brief history of Identity Politics published by NPR, July 12, 2011, mentions the rise of La Raza (The Race) in 1970.

From Identity Politics by Vasiliki Neofotistos, Oxford Bibliographies, October 29, 2013:

Additionally, identity politics refers to tensions and struggles over the right to map and define the contours and fixed “essence” of specific groups. The phrase has become increasingly common in political anthropology since the second half of the 20th century with the emergence of a wide diversity of social movements, including the women’s movement, the African American civil rights movement, and the gay and lesbian movement, as well as nationalist and postcolonial movements. Central to the practice of identity politics are the notions of sameness and difference, and thus the anthropological study of identity politics involves the study of the politics of difference.

Rational Wiki sheds more light on the historical evolution of Identity Politics.

The current political version of American multiculturalism is described by Stanley Renshon in the February 8, 2011, Center for Immigration Studies article: Multiculturalism in the U.S.: Cultural Narcissism and the Politics of Recognition:

It is a term that gathered force in the aftermath of the 1960s when cultural narcissism and identity politics became fused into the multicultural movement. The historian Christopher Lasch brilliantly captured the first of these trends in his book The Cultural of Narcissism.

In it, he argued that the traditional American cultural of individualism and self-reliance was eroding in the face of growing self-absorption and a society that increasingly seemed to reward it. This set of developments gained momentum in the context of general demands of groups that had not been "mainstream" to become so and have society validate that new status politically and culturally. The absolute legitimacy of the demand by Americans of African descent for full political and legal rights and their public acceptance was the foundation on which other groups based their own demands for "recognition."

There followed group after group demanding public validation, social acceptance, and government policies to redress the historical wrongs – some very real, others exaggerated – that they used to press their claims.

Not America's history

America hasn't always been a multiculturalist, identity-driven nation. As Stephen Steinlight points out in his April 2004 Center for Immigration Studies article, High Noon to Midnight: Why Current Immigration Policy Dooms American Jewry,

Perhaps the chief distinction between today’s immigration and that of yesteryear is the absence of the tacit and overt pressures that assimilated even the most recalcitrant. These forces have been weakened by multiculturalist ideology that legitimizes and reinforces identity politics; the demise of Americanization programs; the death of civic education; the rise of bilingualism; and the elimination of obligatory national service.

Similarly, Peter Brimelow, author of Alien Nation, observes in his 2002 VDare article Peter Brimelow (“a once-respected conservative voice”) on Goldberg of National Review:

Contrary to the melting pot myth, America has not always been a multicultural, multiracial kaleidoscope held together by some abstract principles. At the time of the Revolution, it was completely white, overwhelmingly Protestant (98%), heavily British (80%), significantly English (60%). (There were of course black slaves, but they were not part of the political nation.) Over time, immigration did gradually alter this, but less than immigration enthusiasts think – demographers estimate that the population of the U.S. would be about half of what it is now if there had been no immigration at all after 1790. When non-traditional groups arrived, there was always intense debate which, if the inflow did not abate spontaneously (the Irish after 1850), resulted in government cut-offs (the Chinese, the Japanese, the “new immigrants” 1880-1921). And blacks were painfully integrated. But the U.S. was 90% white as late as 1960.

Jonah lovingly quotes Ramesh Ponnuru disparaging immigration reform as “identity politics for white people.” (Why can`t whites have identity politics, incidentally, if blacks and Hispanics —or Hindus or Indians— can?) But, historically, “white identity politics” would have been called simply— “American identity politics.”

You can approve of this historical fact or not. But you cannot deny it.

Leftist agenda

Identity Politics is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics which has been embraced by leftists, progressives, and the Democrat Party - particularly under the Obama administration. While initially serving to differentiate the party from conservative agendas, it is beginning to short-circuit the party's efficacy.

In a May 18, 2015 USA Today article, Democrats sic identity politics on their own - The left has handicapped its ability to debate policy, even among themselves, Glenn Harlan Reynolds observes that:

In my experience, people argue identity when they don't want to argue policy. And the reason they don't want to argue policy, usually, is that they're wrong. But in arguing that everyone who disagrees with them is a racist, or a sexist, or a tool of Big Money, or whatever, the Democrats run the risk of self-destruction. This is basically what happened to the the Labour Party in Britain: A reliance on easy tropes that please the base but alienate other voters...

Likewise, too many prominent Democrats and supporters have spent the past six years calling everyone who doesn't agree with Obama a racist...

Joe Klein expresses a similar concern in the September 10, 2012 TIME article, One for All and All for One - It's time for Democrats to move away from identity politics:

The Democrats have a serious problem. It is a problem that stems from the party's greatest strength: its long-term support for inclusion and equal rights for all, its support of racial integration and equal rights for women and homosexuals and its humane stand on immigration reform. Those heroic positions, which I celebrate, cost the Democrats more than a few elections in the past. And they caused an understandable, if misguided, overreaction within the party--a drift toward identity politics, toward special pleading. Inclusion became exclusive...

If the Democrat Party truly wants to be a party of inclusion, it must reach out to those who are currently excluded from its identity politics...

In summary

More than just a nation of squabbling nationalities, America is fast becoming a nation of squabbling identity groups vying for elevated victimhood status. In essence, identity groups are striving to dis-assimilate from mainstream culture, resulting in a fragmented society and loss of cultural cohesion in America.

Perhaps a modernized version of Roosevelt's quote should read:

The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing as a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling identity factions.

Additional reading

The Social Justice Endgame - What do social justice warriors want?, by David Azerrad, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2020. An excellent article well worth reading:

... The manifold contradictions of identity politics invite us to look beyond the misleading kumbaya rhetoric and examine its actual goals. There is one question in particular the identitarians are careful to avoid, as it goes to the heart of their project....

The Real Endgame

... The real goal of iden tity politics thus proves to be not proportional representation, but greater diversity, i.e., fewer whites, fewer men, and fewer heterosexuals. For that is all that “diversity” means: fewer members of the bad groups. How few we are never told, but fewer than we currently have is always an imperative. Beyond that, the term “diversity” is essentially meaningless....

The primacy of diversity over parity is further confirmed by the barely restrained jubilation with which the media and the Left greet news of America’s impending demographic transformation into a so-called “majority-minority” country. In 2015, at a lunch in honor of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Vice President Joe Biden celebrated America’s “unrelenting stream of immigration”—specifically Muslims, Africans, Asians, and Hispanics. “It’s not gonna stop, nor should we want it to stop,” Biden enthused. “As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things, I think, we can be most proud of.” In his excitement, Biden moved up the date of the demographic tipping point by almost three decades:

"Folks like me, who are Caucasian of European descent, for the first time, in 2017, will be an absolute minority in the United States of America. Absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America from then and on will be white, European stock. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a source of our strength."

... This demographic trend line—what has been called “the browning of America”—is presented to America’s white majority as a just dispensation from above to which all must submit.... Nor should you want to do anything about it, since a less white America will be a better America... Only a racist would oppose the rapid demographic transformation of his country...

America, in other words, is defined teleologically by its future demographic composition... It belongs not to all its citizens, but to the future progeny of its nonwhite population....

The emasculation of men, the promotion of sexual perversion, and the flooding of America with non-white immigrants are necessary but not sufficient to achieve identitarian social justice. Even then, a rump of whites will still remain. And though they will have been reduced to a minority who are no longer overrepresented in all realms of accomplishment, they will still be white, with all the psychological and historical baggage this entails. Whiteness itself will therefore have to be deconstructed....

Identity politics in effect invites us to embrace racism, but to do so in the name of anti-racism.... Hence the fundamental contradiction of identity politics: it speaks of love, but fans the flames of hatred....

Adolph Reed: Identity Politics Is Neoliberalism,, June 29, 2015:

Political scientist and race theorist Adolph Reed has long maintained that identity politics is a form of neoliberalism. In a June article, he explains: [Identity] politics is not an alternative to class politics; it is a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism...

Reed condemns identity politics for, despite its putative good intentions, disguising objectively right-wing, neoliberal ideology with superficially “progressive” rhetorical window dressing...

Islamic Jihad: Symptom of a Western Cause, Raymond Ibrahim, PJ Media, December 16, 2015:

Yet it still remains unclear whether objective thinking will eventually overthrow the current narrative of relativism, anti-Westernism, and asinine emotionalism.

Simply put, celebrating multiculturalism and defeating the jihad is impossible.

The Delusions of Left-Wing Identity Politics, Jonal Goldberg, National Review, June 27, 2015:

...identity politics is fueled by generous subsidies from higher education, foundations, and other institutions designed to transfer resources to the Griping Industry. But if you spend enough time teaching people to think that way, guess what? They’ll think that way...

What’s Wrong With Identity Politics (and Intersectionality Theory)? A Response to Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle” (And Its Critics), The North Star, Michael Rectenwald, December 2, 2013:

The problem with identity politics, then, is that it is one-sided and undialectical. It treats identities as static entities, and its methods only serve to further reify those categories. It aims to liberate identity groups (or members thereof) qua identity groups (or individuals), rather than aiming to liberate them from identity itself. Identity politics fails not because it begins with various subaltern groups and aims at their liberation, but because it ends with them and thus cannot deliver their liberation. It makes identities and their equality with other “privileged” groups the basis of political activity, rather than making the overcoming of the alienated identity, for themselves and all identity groups, the goal. The abolition of the one-sidedness of identity – as worker, woman, man, or what have you – represents real human emancipation. Always failing this, identity politics settles for mere linguistic emancipation...

Identity Politics Play a Role in US Elections, Jeffrey Young, Voice of America, June 20, 2012.

Donald Trump: Last Chance For Conservatism–Or First Sign Of White Identity Politics? Maybe Both, James Kirkpatrick, VDare, August 30, 2015.

Identity Politics: Fool Us Twice, Shame on Us, by Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker, October 3, 2014.

Anarchy Is Swallowing Up the Social Order, by E. Jeffrey Ludwig, March 3, 3018:

... The momentum toward anarchy began with the move toward federal government expansion. During Woodrow Wilson's presidency, we began to see the implementation of what is now called the administrative state. This was helped along by our participation in WWI, which created the need for more governmental controls. This was followed by the massive Keynesian demand-side economics implemented by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal, and WWII....

However, given the present size, scope, and cost of our government, it never seems to occur to them that governmental policies have been wrongheaded and guided by a wrong philosophy or purpose for the past 100 years. It's not the size and power of the government that has been lacking; rather, the size and power have been put in the service of the wrong purpose.

To use a term from Greek philosophy, the telos (purpose) of government has been misplaced. Instead of designing laws and methods to enhance the dignity and freedom of the individuals living in our society, the government has been designing projects that are (1) guided exclusively or primarily by utilitarian goals of the greatest good for the greatest number or (2) by socialistic goals that government expansion is the greatest good in itself or (3) by identity politics, where the good of identity collectives is more important than the good of individuals.

The above three purposes of government diverge from the founding values of the United States. Those values are based on government's existence to promote the well-being of the individuals living under that government, individuals as individuals, not members of a subgrouping according to sex, race, age, occupation, mental functioning, health, etc. ...

The true conservatives have it right. We need to go back to our Judeo-Christian moral roots based on biblical and natural law, and to checks and balances and federalism as understood by the Founders.


Identity Socialism - Herbert Marcuse’s toxic legacy, by Dinesh D'Souza, American Greatness, May 30, 2020:

... Socialism in America today has turned black against white, female against male, homosexual and transsexual against heterosexual, and illegals against legal immigrants and American citizens....

American socialism is concerned less with worker exploitation by the bourgeoisie and more with the race, gender and transgender grievances of identity politics. I call it identity socialism....

If Franklin D. Roosevelt were alive today, he would not recognize the modern Democratic Party he created. Nor would he recognize the progressivism and socialism that formed the ideological pillars of his party. For FDR, as for Marx, socialism was primarily a matter of class. It was the rich versus the poor...

... for identity socialists and for the Lleft more generally, blacks and Latinos are in, whites are out. Women are in, men are out. Gays, bisexuals, pansexuals and transsexuals, together with other, more exotic, types are in; heterosexuals are out. Illegals are in, native-born citizens are out...

To understand identity socialism, we must go back several decades and meet the man who figured out how to bring its various strands together, Herbert Marcuse...


How the Left views the world: power, race, and class