Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The tragedy of identity politics

Ring. Ring. Hil? This is Bar.

Barbara Bush?

No, me! Barack Obama.

Perhaps even stranger. What's up?

I want to call a truce.

Ok, what's the gimmick?

Oh Hil, you cut me to the quick! There's no gimmick. I just want to bury the hatchet.

Right. What's the gimmick?

You know what I'm talking about. This isn't doing either of us any good. And I'm sorry for criticizing you for emphasizing the role of Lyndon Johnson in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, instead of Martin Luther King. I know that you were talking about presidential leadership. I played the race card. It was a cheap shot; I'm sorry.

Apology accepted. And?

Why do you think there has to be an "and?"

There is, isn't there?

Well, yes, but I'm sorry you won't just accept the apology in the spirit in which it was offered.

Fine. What's the "and?"

Well, maybe you could let up on the questions about "likeablility" and stuff.

I think I brought up the question about why some people, especially some men, don't like me exactly once, in that New Hampshire debate.

I know, but when I responded that you were "likeable enough" it made me look petty.

[chuckling] Yeah, it really did, didn't it? What's the "and stuff?"

Well, playing the woman card. You, well, sniffed a little in New Hampshire; I've never seen you do that before.

And that's playing the woman card?


Well it wasn't. But if you're trying to suggest it's a mistake to play identity politics, you're right.


Even though there are a lot more women than blacks in the U.S.

Come on, Hil, I thought we were getting somewhere.

Just kidding. We should both pledge not to play the race or gender cards. One of us will need all those voters in the fall.

Great! I'm glad we had this conversation. Even though you started it.

What? I did not!

Did too.

Did not.

Did too.

Did not.




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That was perhaps a little cheeky, even for Spot. But playing identity politics is a dangerous game. Simply trying to aggregate enough identities to your side may even work sometimes, but it's tribalism, not political philosophy. One of the tribes in the Republican party, the evangelicals, is providing an excellent example of that now.

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