Democrats Just Can’t Quit Identity Politics

Imagine you’re a Democrat. Now imagine waking up on November 9, 2016 to the realization that your god is dead. The central idea animating your political party—nay, your entire sense of purpose and justice in the world—has betrayed you as a fraud. The thing you championed and nurtured and fertilized with a care better spent on hothouse tomatoes, rotted and then splattered as it was tossed in your face.

What is that Leftist “god”? It is identity politics.

Do you bury him or do you redouble the insane hope that believing harder will resurrect him? On Tuesday night, the Democrats answered that question.

They walked into the House chamber thinking that they were armed for bear. The House Democratic Women’s Working Group, evoking the memory of their recently defeated presidential candidate as she appeared this summer in her “historic” speech before the Democratic National Committee, showed up dressed in white as would vestal virgins suffragettes angry feminists who didn’t get their way in the current year. Perhaps we should be grateful that they left their pussyhats at home? Lest we get any crazy ideas about solidarity between all Democratic women, however, the black flower caucus was there to remind us that some of these women are not only female, they are black. Otherwise we might have failed to notice. They’re angry, too, by the way. So unity!

And, of course, we can’t forget the invited guests of several Democratic legislators, the “undocumented immigrants” all of whom are only here to better America, lending us their diversity in order to give us our strength. Or something.

But all of this was eclipsed by the grand finale, the coup de grâce, the pièce de résistance in Democrat Identity Politics: former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s response to the president from the cozy confines of a Lexington diner. Surrounded by a gaggle of (mainly white) people he described as his “neighbors”—but who more looked like a group of tired, hungry, and bored hostages—the septuagenarian Beshear stumbled over his lines, calling himself first a “proud Democrat” and then a “proud Republican.” Realizing his mistake, he tried to correct himself midstream but said “and a Democrat” and “mostly an American.” Freud would have things to say about this, but I’m no psychoanalyst. I just think it was a word fitly misspoken, especially for a man engaged in such a pathetic and naked attempt at identity politics.

To paraphrase a line shared by my friend Paula Steiner (whom you can listen to here): In order to regain ground lost with “the forgotten man,” Democrats trotted out “the forgotten Democrat.”

Although Kentucky has been a reliably Republican state since 2008, their choice of McCain over Obama in that year was the first time the state had not chosen the winner in a presidential election since 1960. The outcome should have given Republican election observers more pause. Suddenly, a swing state became less “swingy.” A Bellwether state became less, what? Bellwethery?

What could explain this? Barack Obama and Democratic Identity Politics.

And that’s about all Beshear’s speech amounted to. The sleepy looking governor was plopped down there in the middle of America with his Kentucky drawl and his invocations of a Baptist preacher upbringing, to emphasize the appearance of things over the substance. Beshear was supposed to be an avatar for the good ole’ boy vote; just another old white guy from flyover country. “Look, boys! They’re raising the flag! Hey, Appalachian voters! Remember us? We’ve got ’em, too. Come back!”

But that’s just it. With Tuesday’s pathetic display—along with the countless other protests, demonstrations, and marches we’ve watched unfold since the election—Democrats are telegraphing their contempt for American ideals. They don’t see their voters as individuals with opinions and interests shaped by anything other than tribal identity.

It can’t be that the people in the states formerly considered part of the “Blue Wall” simply rejected their prescriptions because they considered them to be bad for the country and bad for their states. It must be that Democrats forgot to tend to one of the pots on their fire. There must be some “constituency” (and, of course, that’s how Democrats break down citizens, into “constituencies”) Democrats forgot to court placate patronize lie to during the late presidential election.

The substance of Beshear’s speech, such as it was, was all about identity and an argument from the authority this identity was supposed to give him over the identities of Trump and those in his administration. In addition to being a white guy preacher’s son from the South, we were reminded, also of his military service. Trump, on the other hand, is a billionaire and he appointed a bunch of billionaires to serve in his cabinet. That was it. That was the argument.

As I was watching this speech, a friend of mine messaged me, “It’s funny that an older, white Kentuckian with a southern drawl sitting in a diner trying to go after working class middle America looks weak and out of touch compared to an orange business man from NYC speaking from a politician’s podium.” I take his point. There is a certain irony in it and the surface contrast between them is palpable. But, in fact, there’s nothing unusual about American’s overlooking points of origin when searching for what is best for their country.

Hilariously, and with no sense of irony, Beshear quoted Ronald Reagan during his sad display of petered out identity politics, “Our origins matter less than our destination,” he said. Indeed, they do. This is what Americans do. We rise above our circumstances and we look beyond the superficial. We did this when we elevated a man of humble origins, born in a Kentucky log cabin, to the presidency in 1860. And we overlooked them again in 2016, as we elected a billionaire developer from New York City.

About Julie Ponzi

Julie Ponzi is Senior Editor of American Greatness. She holds an M.A. in political philosophy and American politics from the Claremont Graduate University. She was an Earhart Fellow and a Bradley Foundation Fellow while studying at Claremont and also earned a Publius Fellowship from The Claremont Institute. Formerly the Director of Academic Programs at the Claremont Institute, she also taught American politics at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing has appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times. She was also a regular and long-time contributor to the Ashbrook Center's blog, No Left Turns. She lives in California. You can follow her on Twitter at @JuliePonzi

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76 responses to “Democrats Just Can’t Quit Identity Politics”

  1. So they didn’t just grab some random old gent wandering past the diner as Trump was wrapping it up?

    • I was waiting for the people behind him to start toppling over, one by one…..

  2. I’m quite surprised Democratic operatives didn’t go more for a “Hee Haw” setting, with Beshears clad in overalls and sitting on a hay bale. That would be more compatible with their conceptions of Flyover Country.
    Cheap, but the eerie resemblance between Beshears and Marshall Applewhite of the Heaven’s Gate comet cult fame must be noted.

    • Just hysterical. Many thanks for the laugh.

    • He could have had a straw (from a bale of hay) between his teeth.

    • The DNC advisors are all from Hollywood, which might explain a thing or two.

  3. The first paragraph is a perfect summary of the Democrat state of mind now. I would also add that it is predictable that they spew venom on people that were telling them from the begining that their deity was false.

  4. Come on, Julie, a last name of Ponzi and no disclaimer in your bio? Are you related to the famous shyster or not?

      • You read the comments to your article? Quite a bit of identity politics being throw around

      • Only if you consider lumping Democrats into one group as identity politics. The difference between Dems and Pubs is Dems can’t wait to divide each and every one of us into increasingly smaller “clubs” while ranking the clubs to determine which is the most victimized and worthy of Dem sympathies thereby determining which club the Government MUST provide more money. The Republicans I know don’t give a rip if you’re black, white, yellow or red, we don’t care if you’re born with a wiener or a bun and we don’t care where you stick your wiener or bun so long as it’s consensually with another adult and not trying to force us to applaud your decision. So long as you are a decent, law abiding, hard working biped, we’re ok with you.

      • Just read an article by you. “Baby it’s dumb outside…” guess what followed that? Identity politics. Using labels like “feminist left” is identity politics.

      • Love that piece! But that’s Michele Bregande. Not me.

  5. Democrats have forgotten that FDR was a very rich white man.

    • So was Kennedy. And he even appointed his brother, who ran the Kennedy fortune after their father had a stoke, as the Attorney General. Can you imagine if Trump put his sister, who is a Judge, in charge of the Trump fortune and then appointed her as Attorney General of the United States at the same time? Democrats had no problem with Kennedy doing just that.

      • Joe Kennedy Sr. stashed their millions in off-shore accounts so that they wouldn’t have large tax bills – typical limousine liberals – taxes are what little people must pay.

    • And a failed, bitter mamas boy. The only thing he was good at was slinging the BS. Perfect for politics!

    • There are more very wealthy Democrats in Congress than Republicans.

  6. Yes, identity politics is surely the downfall of Democrats but it takes them to places they really do not want to go. The minorities they court basically only exist in NY and CA, and so they can basically run up the score in those two states, but as we saw in November, that does not win the election.

    Another reason for this overkill in two states is because the democrats, especially under Obama, became enthralled with big data and believe, like online shopping, they don’t have to leave NY or CA to win over the great unwashed. In fact Democrats actually believe they are more technologically savvy while Republicans are luddites….but who set up her own server and compromised classified info, and who clicked on a link from a Nigerian Prince wanting to share his fortune with him? Not Republicans.

    • “The minorities they court basically only exist in NY and CA.”

      That’s a breathtakingly ignorant statement.

      • If you subtract the CA vote from the national total, Donald Trump won the POPULAR vote by about the same margin Hillary did with CA included.

      • And THAT’S why Lying Crooked Hillary “lost” and the Democrats have “lost” ~1,200 elected seats in the past 8 years.

      • Why? Those are the states that boast the largest pool of legal and illegal immigrants and why they pander after their votes. Do you forget Tammany Hall used to work the arrival boats seeking to steer newly arrived immigrants with the Democrat message that has been the same for well over 150 years. We can help you with free stuff if you just vote for Tammany Hall.

  7. That diner thing was crazed. And I count zero People of Color among the formica tables. How does a RETIRED Governor get such a plum role? It can only be because no one else would do it. No Perez. No Ellison. Not even a sitting Dem Gov would take on that job which they rightly perceive as chiefly an organ donor. Beshear is done with his anyway.

  8. “Republicans Just Can’t Quit Dog-Whistle Racist Politics”

    There. Fixed it.

    • The first step to popping your head out of your diseased rancid colon is realizing where you’ve placed it … let everyone know when you’ve taken that first step.

      • The cure for your rectalitis is simple … take a quad dose of laxatives, bend over a push. If your head pops out and you can resist the temptation to imediately reinsert it up that dark nasty tunnel, you’ve taken the first step towards rationality. If you can’t resist that temptation, you’re just SOL.

        I’m betting on you being SOL.

      • You seem to have a rather intimate understanding of the workings of my bowels.

        Care to explain that to our readers, Lovey?

      • If they do reinsert, a window may be placed in the umbilicus so they can see where they’re going ;-)


  10. I halfway expected him to open with “Who am I? Why am I here?”

  11. Democrats: You’re already dead. You just don’t realize it yet. Your utopia never existed, except in your kool-aid stimulated imaginations. Life doesn’t work that way, hard work and dedication to truth, in contrast, do. That’s why so many are leaving your ranks and turning Republican. They have realized that we ALL want a Great America, and that destination benefits everyone. It’s not that difficult to figure out.

  12. “Democrats Just Can’t Quit Identity Politics”

    Well, they’re fundamentally “stupid” and, as everyone knows, “stupid is as stupid does”.

  13. Poster boy for Stockholm Syndrome? Looks more like a hostage video. ;)

  14. Sadly ironic that Governor Greenjeans invoked “diversity” yet sat among a lily-white crowd of liberals (the only ones in the state of Kentucky). That the party of “Black Lives Matter”-racism and violence, Trannie-bathrooms, homosexual “marriage”, Illegal Immigration, Urban violence, drug legalization and corruption, etc., makes such a pathetic Gruber-style attempt to fool Whites into voting for them speaks volumes about the modern Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has chosen the path of racism and urban demagoguery and decline. The need to proudly wear it.

    • I thought the same things – thanks for pointing our this blatant hypocrisy.

    • Wait, there as an old black man sitting behind him! How dare you! LOL

  15. I love articles like this. The cognitive dissonance is thick

    • Look. Someone learned a big new set of words but doesn’t know what they mean or how to apply them correctly.

      Okay hotshot. Please explain how this article exemplifies cognitive dissonance?

      • How so? Her position is inconsistent she uses identity politics and then she rails against it. Look at her prior articles

      • Please cite accurately where you believe she used identity politics. I suspect you are confused perhaps cognitive anosognosia?

      • She uses the word leftist which is identity politics. Don’t be obtuse

      • Obtuse is the person who suggests the term leftist, accepted around the world to denote socialist democrats, is identity politics. Your comment is absurd.

    • I love it when DemokkkratsBolsheviks present a rebuttal which ends up highlighting just how thin the Party of Looters’ leadership bench has become. A former governor is the biggest, brightest and best you’ve got? The GOP doesn’t have anything to worry about for the next several cycles at a minimum.

      • I think the term you were searching for is “Penthouse Bolsheviks.”

    • Please elaborate why you feel think this the case.

  16. Watching the Dems is like watching a sewer rat die…you are glad, and just wish it was happening faster, but then again you enjoy the notion that as it does, its in agony.

  17. Dems: Trump is a BILLIONAIRE and thats not appropriate
    GOP: in today’s dollars, FDR would be a billionaire.
    Dems…ummm yeah but he was in a wheelchair.
    oh, ok…..
    Democratss are what a good steak becomes after digested….and admit ti, isnt a digested steak-sh it the best feeling on earth, especially when the toilet is flushed and it goes buh-buy?

  18. Trump stole a march on the Democrats, and the Democrats pretended it wasn’t happening.

  19. Interesting article. Ms. Ponzi writes…

    “…Democrats are telegraphing their contempt for American ideals. They don’t see their voters as individuals with opinions and interests shaped by anything other than tribal identity.”

    Ms. Ponzi is spot on – until democrats understand that we are ONE people… they will continue their slide into obscurity.

    • Great point. Do they really think people are so dumb that they mainly identify with their superficial appearances or place of origin? The vast majority do not.

  20. ‘Imagine you’re a Democrat’

    Okay I see myself abandoning the party again.

  21. Come on folks – that’s all they have – their agenda failed miserably – the public firmly rejected their more big government, PC, we know better than you meme.
    Their most afraid that Trump’s “HUGE” success will relegate “progressivism” to the dust bin.
    Progressivism is the real disease infecting our Republic.
    Progressivism = Totalitarianism very thinly disguised as the soft hand of paternalism.

  22. Donna Brazile, early-on Gore 2000 campaign manager and recent emergency fill-in Democratic Nat’l Committee leader after DNC leader Debbie Wasseman Schultz was discovered to be sabotaging Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign: “The four pillars of the Democratic Party are African Americans and other ethnic minorities, women, unions, and homosexuals and lesbians.”

  23. I guess they’re gonna go with the Mayberry meets Cracker Barrel approach as a way to connect with rural America. I kept waiting for Goober to walk in with a couple catfish and Dr. Peppers under his arm. My God, this former reverse mortgage spokesmodel couldn’t even remember which political party he was in. If this is the best they’ve got, Trump’s got nothing to worry about.

  24. The dems don’t understand that women aren’t stupid? They spend their whole campaign about blacks and hispanics and women being stupid,, and they aren’t. Until they have an idea that they aren’t,, they will never will a cupcake war, let alone a presidential campaign.

  25. Yeah this does have the fingerprints of the Rahm Emanuel wing of the party on it. I would have preferred Keith Ellison but he scares the Obama/Clinton/Emanuel types too much. Wake up Democrats and start acting and sounding like you will deliver on universal heath insurance, retirement security, and strong assistance for making college affordable. Do those things and you don’t need to be fixated on the optics and other consultant driven approaches by the old guard of the party that has lost touch.

    • No they aren’t interested in that. Not any of it. It’s more important to blame Putin for Hillary’s loss. And of course Trump.

  26. The white was to honor the contributions of the KKK to the Democrat party over so many years. Part of Black history month.

  27. Good article, that’s why the Dems keep bringing up hate, race, every “ism and “ology” in the book at aevefry opportunity. They must continuially remind their constituents how horribly the Republicans, e.g. old rich white men, have mistreated them by providing for and nurturing them as the generation that has had it the easiest of any, ever.

  28. The core problem with Identity Politics is that it is a zero sum game. It pits groups of people against each other and takes from some and gives to others. But it does not grow the pie.

    Trump won because he promised to grow the pie for the benefit of everyone. Now let’s see if he can deliver where GW Bush and Obama both failed.

  29. Identity politics is essentially racist. Here’s how it works. “Hey you over there! You’re a greenie! And we feel for you because people are prejudiced against you. Vote for us and we’ll give you special favors to make up for all the past errors!” Greenie shrugs and figures that sound fine. But distinguishing by race in the first place—when science has told us there are none (DNA analysis)—is using race for political advantage. Now, what could be more racist than using someone’s race to create division and get votes? It’s cynical, racist, and wrong.

    • But when Greenie realizes the con, he misses the point entirely and blames racism, etc, reinforcing the identity politics he was taught by the people who screwed him over in the first place.

      • Quite a feedback loop! It works even when the target wakes up to it.

  30. The Dems have many, many parties totally invested in identity politics – no money in it for turning things around

  31. Socialism is based on the premise; Earning money does not entitle you to it, but VOTING for it DOES.

  32. Couple things… FDR was a wealthy progressive, he is the reason it was made into law only two terms. That was done by congress to prevent future “long-term” presidencies. Second, the Kennedy’s made all their money from “bootlegging’. During prohibition, the father was ambassador to Ireland he bought up stocks in Irish whiskey companies, then worked the back channels as to lifting prohibition. Just days before the law was to be rescinded he had ships of whiskey loaded just offshore waiting to unload.

  33. The people behind that guy look like they’re being held at gunpoint.