As the 2020 Democratic field fills with moderate white male candidates, were again hearing the calls to put identity politics aside in favor of a focus on economic justice. On Saturday, Democratic contender Pete Buttigieg warned of the divisive effects of identity politics, arguing that the lines between different identity groups in the country have created a crisis of belonging that Donald Trump has capitalized on. In reflecting on the very real walls that we are putting up, Buttigieg seems to suggest, effectively, that the most productive way forward is to limit our focus on race, gender, and ethnicity on the road to 2020.
But supporting female candidates and candidates of color is not a backburner issue, a nice-to-have once we get past Trump. If we are going to get serious about fighting bigotry and the political agenda bigotry fuels, not just one man whos benefited from it, we need to commit to leaders whose very lives negate what white nationalists stand for. Moreover this primary must confront the lie that the lefts commitment to fighting bigotry has come at the expense of serious work uniting people in the fight against economic inequality, a belief that gained steam after Trumps election with Mark Lillas appeal for The End of Identity Liberalism.
The reality is, there is no such thing as identity politics; the work of ending racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other forces of hate is just plain politics. Thats because throughout our countrys history, especially in the last century, conservative political leaders have succeeded in advancing an agenda that widens the gap of economic inequality in part by exploiting the prejudices and fears of low-income white voters, justifying their bigotry in an arbitrary sense of white pride.