Identity Politics Is Bad For America

What used to be the Great American Melting Pot has turned into the Not-So-Great American Salad Bowl. Instead of taking the best that different Americans have to offer and adding it to a rich, savory stew that everyone will enjoy, they prefer to toss separate grievance groups into a bowl and drown the resulting mishmash in a mucky house dressing labeled "multiculturalism," pleasing no one but the one who wields the salad tongs.

It's no wonder that vegetarians tend to be liberals. (I know; I used to be both.) The holier-than-thou attitude vegetarians often have about telling other people how to eat goes hand in hand with the holier-than-thou attitude liberals in general have regarding telling other people how to live their lives.

Divide and conquer: that's what identity politics is all about. Encouraging folks with different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, etc., to separate themselves from the larger group and demand special treatment and consideration means it's easier to gain their vote by promising various and sundry handouts to keep them all happy.

It used to be that the divide-and-conquer tactic was used exclusively on conservative opponents. It still is, of course, sometimes with hilarious hypocrisy as the unintended result. Take these two recent instances in the current race for president:

Example 1: Progressive Media USA's ad about John McCain marrying a strong woman who has more money than he does, meaning she's his "sugar mommy" and he's a "kept man."

Aren't liberal feminists the ones who keep yammering that men shouldn't be afraid to let their wives earn more? Aren't we supposed to be embracing the concept of a strong woman? As Ed Morrissey points out,

Men who didn't feel threatened by successful women were supposedly enlightened. Men who allowed women to control their own fortunes were supposedly the most enlightened. Now Democrats want to haul out the chauvinistic taunt of "kept man" and "sugar mommy" against McCain for having been enlightened enough to do both?

Of course, liberals will point out that John Kerry's fortuitous marriage to not just one, but two wealthy women was often the topic of ridicule by conservatives in 2004. This is true, but consider the contrast between the two men: McCain, an unquestioned war hero who doesn't appear to have a problem mixing and mingling with "common folk," with a wife whose public appearances are usually low-key and charming vs. Kerry, a war hero whose heroism was questioned by others who served with him and whose elitism is well known ("Do you know who I am?"), with a wife whose public appearances were usually grating and insulting. (It's a draw as to which wife's pile o' riches has the higher pedigree: Cindy McCain is the Budweiser heiress and Teresa Heinz stands at the helm of a ketchup fortune.)

Not to mention that conservatives usually run on a "you can do it and if you have succeeded, congratulations!" platform, while liberals run on a "your success is holding others back so we're going to take from you for the common good" platform. Rich politicians telling the rest of us what we are expected to give up to "level the playing field" can be a bit hard to take.

Example 2: The Los Angeles Times raising the question of McCain's fitness for office, seeing as he receives a disability pension from the Navy -- tax free, no less.

This is amusing on a couple of counts. First, two of the most celebrated liberal presidents had physical disabilities: Franklin D. Roosevelt (wheelchair-bound from polio) and John F. Kennedy (suffered from a congenital back problem and Addison's disease). Wouldn't it be discriminatory of the American public to look upon McCain's less daunting physical limitations (and age?) as a reason to keep him out of the Oval Office? I thought any kind of discrimination, both overt and implied, were no-no's in the liberal playbook.

And consider the reason McCain was awarded his pension. The beatings he received as a POW in Hanoi were so bad that he has been unable to raise his arms above his head ever since. His pension is based on his service to our country and the rules and regulations set forth by the military, not the fact that he ended up becoming a senator who happened to marry a rich woman and is now running for president. Liberals claim to support our military men and women, yet they question McCain's military pension. If the television show That's Incredible! were still on the air, this would be a worthy segment.

But all's fair in love and politics. Such shenanigans are to be expected when it comes to one side playing against the other, hypocrisy be damned. But when the serpent begins eating its own tail, well, that's something else entirely.

The Democrat field has been narrowed down and winnowed out -- all the pesky white men are gone and what Democrat primary voters are left with are a black man and a white woman. This should be a moment of triumph for the Democrats. The chance to make history! They could be responsible for ushering in the first black or woman president into the White House! Get the ticker tape ready!

Unfortunately for them, identity politics -- the politics that liberals have eaten, slept, and breathed with over the past four or five decades -- is rearing its ugly head. It seems encouraging people to cluster into separate grievance groups, viewing themselves not as just Americans but as insert group-Americans, is wreaking havoc on this year's primary. If primary voters don't vote for Barack Obama then his campaign says they're racist. If primary voters don't vote for Hillary Clinton then her campaign cries that she's being treated unfairly by the established patriarchy.

On paper, Obama and Clinton aren't much different. Their policies and voting records are both sufficiently liberal to please even the finickiest Democrat, although Obama's voting record in the Senate is slightly further left than Clinton's. When you have two candidates whom voters couldn't tell apart from behind a curtain, what do you do? Harp on different physical features and "life experiences." And get mad when others aren't planning on voting for your guy/gal and accuse them of racism/sexism. What happens when either Obama or Clinton gets the final nod? Who will be blamed for the loser not reaching the finish line first? For once it can't be said that conservative discrimination is the culprit, although conservatives are enjoying the view from the sidelines immensely.

No, the libs have only themselves and their policy of grievance/identity politics to blame. By encouraging us to be hyphenated Americans instead of just Americans, not only is the Democrat Party in disarray, but all of America as well. If we cannot appreciate our common ground, what's the point?

Pam Meister is the editor of FamilySecurityMatters.org (the opinions she expresses here are her own), and her work has also been featured on American Thinker.