Did the focus on identity politics–the constant focus on Latino, LGBTQ, African-American, and women’s rights–by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee cause Democrats to lose the last election? Is it possible that the Progressive movement, which is the backbone of the Democratic Party, will cause us to lose the next election?
Polling tells us that many people in the critical battleground states–even people who previously opted for Obama–voted for Trump because they felt that the Democrats did not address their problems.
True, quite a lot of people voted for Trump because they felt that they could not vote for Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons. And perhaps many voters turned towards Trump because of FBI Director Comey’s public statements just days before the election regarding newly found emails on a server used by one of Clinton’s top aides.
However, what seems to be true is that the emphasis on identity politics by today’s progressives and the Democratic Party have left the white working class feeling isolated and without a champion: feeling they had no choice but to vote Republican. Enter Donald Trump!
I believe we in the Progressive movement, and in particular the Indivisible movement, should not fall into this trap of continuing to use identity politics. I believe that without including the needs of white working class males and other groups such as Evangelicals, Democrats–and by extension Progressives–made a crucial and ultimately fatal mistake during the last election cycle.
For example, unemployment and underemployment is a very real problem that white working class voters felt were not addressed by the Clinton campaign. The loss of manufacturing jobs, which is a very real concern for many people in the Rust Belt, has been ignored by the Progressive movement.
This is a big mistake.
The latest health care proposals by the Republicans that Trump has embraced presents an excellent opportunity to bring the white working class back into the fold. It is the very people who voted for Trump who will be hurt most by these proposals.
It is up to the Progressive movement to address these issues in a way that will enable everyone who is affected by these proposals to understand how they will be detrimentally affected.
We may be outraged at the travel ban, disheartened by the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, dismayed by the revocation of innumerable regulations, and incredulous at the rejection of climate change, but I believe we must reach out to all groups and explain why these moves by the Trump administration affect all Americans.
This needs to be an inclusive movement, as we are all Americans and we all have a stake in many of these issues. We must start emphasizing the issues that we all have in common.
This is not to say that the Progressive movement must disavow identity politics. I believe it does mean that we need to consider all Americans when talking about the aforementioned issues.
I believe if we don’t include those people in the middle of the country who are also hurting and if we don’t address their concerns or at least focus on them so they can understand that some of our fight is their fight, then we are not only exacerbating the growing schism in this country, but also sabotaging future elections.
I believe we in the Progressive movement must make sure that our representatives have a coherent strategy for winning future elections by reaching out to those who will be most economically hurt by Trump’s initiatives. This is a critical moment in American history and we cannot afford to lose again.
Mark Burkholz has been Director of Technology and a math and computer science teacher at Lawrence Academy since 1992. He lives in Groton with his wife Sheara Friend.
Opinion blog posts represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Indivisible Groton Area or its individual members. IGA invites input and opinion from among the diversity of its membership.