It’s all about identity politics

If you want to even win the right to take on President Trump in the 2020 Presidential election, you better be able to check at least some of the identity politics boxes, according to a piece from Time magazine (21 Feb 19).

The 2020 Democrat primary field will be larger than ever, and there is not yet anything like a front-runner. But “the party’s very identity is up for grabs, as a vast and historically diverse crop of candidates brings big, new ideas to a demanding, divided base,” wrote Molly Ball and Philip Elliott in “The Biggest Field Yet. No Frontrunner. A Divided Base. Welcome to the 2020 Democratic Primary.”

Joe Biden, who has not entered the race, holds a wide lead in early polling and could lay hands on $25 million in early donor commitments if he does enter the race. But he’s “hardly a shoo-in,” his opponents “privately believe much of his support will melt away once other candidates become better known,” and he will have to answer for grilling Anita Hill, cozying up to Wall Street and pursuing tough-on-crime polices in the 1990s, Ball and Elliott acknowledge.

“But Biden’s biggest liability might be the idea that he represents the party’s past, not its future,” they wrote. “The notion of nominating an old, white male in the age of Trump leaves many Democrats cold. The cultural energy on the left is about resisting white nationalism and toxic masculinity in the name of racial justice and gender equality. It’s about formerly marginalized groups demanding to see themselves in their leaders, and millennials tired of baby-boomer rule. Biden would be a throwback to an era of incrementalism and hierarchy that the new generation of Democrats is aching to leave behind.”

The 2018 elections “revealed three major forces creating today’s party,” they wrote. The biggest, of course, “was the power of women, who emerged in unprecedented numbers as candidates, organizers and voters.” It was followed by the “vocal, ambitious group of young progressives,” led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a third group of “political newcomers who cast themselves as pragmatists, many of them military or national-security veterans.”

The party’s elder statesmen — the Clintons, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — “are products of a different era” and “distant from the rising energies.” The Clintons, in particular, “feel like yesterday’s news.”

The new news is, of course, the various groups. “Fittingly, it’s women, minorities and younger candidates who have jumped into the race early,” Ball and Elliott wrote. “By the time Sen. Bernie Sanders entered the fray on Feb. 19, there were already five women, two African Americans, a Latino and a gay millennial among the 10 major declared candidates. Some moderate, white, male candidates suspect there’s room for only one of them in the race.” Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and billionaire former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg likely will stand down if Biden gets in.

The Democrats “would like to move away from white male dominance,” but they “fear that a woman or non-white candidate would be damaged by Trump’s sexism and race-baiting.”

The overall goal is to beat Trump by whatever means necessary.

“The party’s base is more diverse and more female than ever before, with newly assertive feminist and racial-justice voices demanding representation and respect,” Ball and Elliott wrote without providing any figures to back up the claim.

“New policy ideas are flying: One cycle after Clinton’s liberal incrementalism barely beat out Bernie Sanders’ socialist vision, the party’s politicians and policy wonks are debating a range of ambitious ideas. A resurgent democratic-socialist movement has a high-profile presence not just on Twitter and among activists but also in elected office, and it’s advancing once marginal ideas toward the mainstream.”

But it’s not the increased diversity that has spurred the leftward lurch. “In fact, it’s the opposite: non-Hispanic white Democrats (about 60% of the party) are far more likely to call themselves liberal than black and Hispanic party members.”

From the AIM Syndicate, 4455 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Ste. 330, Washington, DC 20008; www.aim.org