Emoting our way to an identity-politics president

Emoting our way to an identity-politics president

Speaking of presidential politics, syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg writes on a major difference between Democrats and Republicans that I touched on recently, namely that Democrats are obsessed with identity politics.

One thing we’re learning from this election: These really are different parties.

First, look at the Democrats. Listen to the discussion about their strategies. Hillary needs to win more blacks and men. Obama must capture more Hispanics and peel away more white women. Both need to fight for “the youth.”

Now look at the Republicans and how we talk about them. Can John McCain win over conservatives? Should he apologize for his support of amnesty or his opposition to tax cuts? Will Mike Huckabee ever make inroads with economic conservatives? Could Mitt Romney have convinced pro-lifers? Were Rudy Giuliani’s positions on gays, guns and abortion too liberal?

See what I’m getting at? If substance were water, the Democratic campaign would be a desert. Oh, I know, Hillary’s a wonk, and Obama’s got enough policy papers to fill the library at Alexandria. So what? Both Obama and Hillary insist there are no major policy differences between them, except for the war and health care.


But that’s it. The rest of their disagreement boils down to who is a more authentic agent of “change.” […] But that debate is almost entirely theoretical, drowned out by the mad scramble to assemble an identity-politics coalition of generic “Hispanics,” “blacks,” “white women,” etc. It’s amazing how complacent the media is in carrying on with this kind of nakedly reductionist analysis. The notion that Hispanics may be voting one way or another for reasons other than their ethnicity seems never to come up.


What Democratic voters actually believe doesn’t seem to be that relevant, in large part because Democrats aren’t voting their beliefs, they’re voting affections.

Obama is “the one” - in Oprah’s words - not because of his policies but because his is a transcendent, unifying, super-nifty-cool personality. Hillary, meanwhile, is staying aloft largely through her ability to guilt-trip female liberals into sticking with her.

There’s no denying the Republican Party has problems—enough to ensure that a Democrat president in 2009 is a real possibility—but what we see is the real emotional immaturity of the Democrats and of a vast swath of the American electorate. Too often the choices in any public policy debate come down to what makes us feel good. Gays want to legally marriage their “partners” so they can receive an emotional stamp of approval from the government, i.e. to “validate their love.” Feminists want to have their anger justified and see misogynistic men grovel. Various groups that harp on racial issues want to make their fellow travelers feel better about themselves in the face of white oppression. Pro-aborts want to feel good about their choice to end babies’ lives. Emote, emote, emote.

Read what supporters say about both Clinton and Obama and you’ll hear about emotion after emotion and not a lot of logic or thought behind it. Neither are Republicans immune to the politics of identity and emotion, but not nearly to the same degree. It’s in not in the DNA of conservatives as much as it is for liberals. But it is the natural progression of a nation that seems most concerned with the foibles of celebrities and an intense kind of navel-gazing that looks at its own bellies and sees the center of the universe.


  • So, most Democrats behave like most Catholics, and vice versa.  Deciding issues based on our emotions, not on our Faith.
    No wonder there are so many Catholics who are Democrats.  Malformation.

  • I am glad that you have been posting on the election. You are bringing up the important issue – I call it the elephant(excuse me, donkey) in the room that no one wants to talk about. What is happening on the Democrat side is rather, as the kids would say, ‘creepy’. Whatever you think about McCain he touched on it in his speech yesterday.

    “I do not seek the presidency on the presumption that I am blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save my country in its hour of need,” said McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his plane was shot down..
    “I seek the presidency with the humility of a man who cannot forget that my country saved me,”

    To say anyone but Jesus Christ is the ‘one’ as Oprah Winfrey did about Obama is almost scary.

  • The Democrat campaign, in the words of the immortal Morris Alpert, is based on “Feelings, nothing more than feelings . . .”

    But, look around you at this culture and what seems to motivate folks’ decisions.  In 2008 America, “Feelings, wo-wo-wo feelings . . .” may be what wins this election.

  • Why no mention of Republican candidate Ron Paul by all you “pro-life” Catholics ?

    Listen to him speak and you will discover the inteeligence and depth of knowledge he has on all the critical issues, especially the pro-life issue.

    Please, do not buy into the media’s blackout of this incredible statesman. Do some research. Get the facts. Realize that we do have a choice and there is a decnt candidate who deserves our vote.

  • Since this is my blog, the only “all you” pro-life Catholics you could be addressing is me. And you’ll notice I haven’t talked much about any Republican candidates.

    Don’t mistake silence for opposition, support, or ignorance.

    Paul’s candidacy is moot now anyway. There’s no way for him to get enough delegates to challenge McCain now.

  • Isn’t the smart thing to do now try to make Billary look good?

    The newly crowned messiah Barack (“Blessed” from the Quaran) will destroy Grandpappy McCain.  Only hope is to get Billary the nomination.

    I love Ron Paul!  My primary in MA is over.  He has the money.  He needs to run THIRD PARTY, and do so NOW! If he does this, and truly bucks the establishment, then he has my full support.

    “The other Pro-Life Catholic Republican”

  • Dom, you may be interested to know that one of greatest presidents (hint: think Civil War) was in much the same position pre-convention as is Ron Paul today. Yet he went on to win the nomination and the presidency.

    Who was he ? Abraham Lincoln.

    We are not ready to throw in the towel, and we will not give up the fight to restore our freedoms. The revolution has only just begun.

    Joe, thanks for the support. However Ron Paul decided the issue of a third party run on Monday in an address to his grass roots supporters who are urging him to do so. He absolutely will not run as a third party candidate. He does not see that as a viable option.

    I’ll be writing him in anyway.

  • Presidential primary politics and the Republican Party don’t work today like they did 150-odd years ago. It’s not the same thing. I’d like some Ron Paul supporter to articulate to me exactly the scenario in which he comes from behind and get 1,175 more delegates (the number needed to win the nomination) when only 1,034 delegates remain in play.

    Oh and he’d have to get every single one of those delegates plus 141 more while preventing McCain from getting just 364 more delegates.

    I admire the pluck and determination of the Paul supporters (hey, what Firefly or Lord of the Rings fan wouldn’t?), but I’m looking beyond the quixotic quest to the realistic prospect of McCain going up against Obama or Hillary.

    And the question remains: Who is the least damaging to our principles and cause?

    Frankly, the foundation of the mission to get a president who actually represents you starts years before the election in building up a party apparatus and supporting candidates at the lower level who can become good candidates on the national level.

    For me to jump on the Paul bandwagon now would be wasting time that could be spent on more productive pursuits.

  • Dom, Dr. Paul often reminds us that anything can happen between now and September. Our job is to keep spreading his message, the message of the Constitution, of sound money and intelligent foreign policy, and watch what happens.

    As to who is the “least damaging” candidate: I am through voting for the “lesser of 2 evils” or in this election, the lesser of 3 evils because they are (Obama, McCain, Clinton – Huckabee will surrender to the media soon)all evil.

    Who promotes our cause is the question we should be asking. This is the first time in by 30 years of voting that I can stand up proudly for a man who truly represents my ideals and beliefs.