Identity and Political Groups

Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash

Identity and politics play an important, intertwined role. Politics is, of course, itself an identity — but for the focus of this post we’re going to go away from political identity and moreso discuss how identities interlay themselves into politics. 

(This episode is part one of my “Election Trilogy”. There will be two more posts coming related to political content. Take in mind that these are general thoughts that were written two months in advance; if shit’s gotten wack over that time, not my problem!)

The only good thing about having two political parties is that it’s very easy to A/B test certain concepts. One of those concepts you can test is that of identity.

Democrats took in identity from a fragmented point of view. Republicans took it from a cohesive point of view. Democrats are, on their head, much more diverse than Republicans. That isn’t what is bad. What is bad is that they took that diversity and never consolidated it into anything. There was no explicit, unified message; just inner conflict caused by divisive identities. You can compare Hillary Clinton/Joe Biden to AOC/Bernie Sanders and be surprised they’re even in the same party to begin with.

On the other hand, the Republicans do not have all that much identity diversity. They are, on average, white, heterosexual, Christian men. Because of this they fail to be effective, but they are efficient. This is because it is much easier to find a block that qualifies Republicans: pro-gun rights, anti-abortion, etc. etc. It is less “Republicans vs Democrats” and more “Republicans vs Everybody Else”.

I wrote a post a while back on diversity in general called You Can’t Do It All Alone. I’ll add an addendum on that by saying that diverse groups have higher maximum productivity and non-diverse groups have higher average productivity. What I mean by this can best be described as this: if you can unify a group of diverse personalities, you are going to perform better than anyone else: you are going to be both effective and efficient. However, if you fail to unify, or fragment, then your productivity is still going to be lower than the non-diverse group.

This is exactly what happened with the Democrats in 2016. When Sanders lost the nomination you had a large swath of people refuse to vote for Clinton — or vote for Trump — out of spite. This could end up playing out very similarly in 2020, as the conflict between Biden and Sanders supporters was even more contentious this time around. On the other hand, you could say that the goal of “Defeat Trump” has now overcome the hostility of 2016 and gives the Democrats their much needed advantage. In reality, neither of these scenarios matter.

They don’t matter because the fragmentation is still there. In the latter example, they “got lucky”. So they defeat Trump… what then? You still can’t contend that the new left (Bernie, AOC, Omar, etc.) will be able to agree with most things on the old left (Clinton, Biden, etc.). You certainly can’t contend that the supporters of either side will agree.

Because of this, a Democratic presidency (at least, as things currently stand) wouldn’t stand to go very far. If the Democrats fail to unify the rest of the house, then Republicans will still be able to step ahead and things will stay at a stand still. Just like how things are now.

So, what can the Democrats do? I feel like I’ve been alluding to this point the whole time, but I’ll go ahead and say it outright: Democrats need to focus more on unifiers than detractors. Not only that, but it has to have a better unifier than “Beat Trump”. There won’t be a Trump to beat if they do make the presidency, and will have to move on in some way. How do they move on? Find the common denominators between the new left and the old left (those are easily the biggest two fractions within the Democrats) and act upon those. They can’t be generics such as “extend healthcare”, because then there would be debate on the how. They have to be hows themselves, or solutions, in order to step ahead of the Republicans and make good ground these next few terms. 

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