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How identity politics could play a role in the 2022 midterms

Oct 25, 2022


Identity politics have been influencing the way people vote for decades, and they may play a role in the 2022 midterm elections. The term “identity politics” refers to people voting based on their association with a specific group. Voter results from recent elections have shown how this trend can play out at the polls.

During the 2018 midterms, Democrats carried the vote among minority demographics and women. Republicans were favored among white voters, and held a 12-point advantage among white men. In the 2014 midterms, 89% of Black voters chose a Democratic candidate and 60% of white voters selected a GOP candidate.

Meanwhile, recent polling data by the Pew Research Center illustrates how those trends could make a comeback in this year’s elections. It found that seven-in-ten black voters would pick a Democrat at the ballot box; while just 6% would vote for a Republican candidate. There were similar trends among other minority groups with Asian-American voters favor Democratic candidates by roughly two-to-one, and hispanic voters lean democrat by 25 percentage points.

The term identity politics was coined in 1977 by by the Combahee River Collective, a Boston based socialist organization comprised of Black lesbian activists. During the late 1970s, an increasing numbers of women had been criticizing the assumption of a common “woman’s experience” irrespective of unique differences in race, ethnicity, class, or sexuality. This ultimately led to the Combahee River Collective’s belief that black women had to map out their own political agenda in order to fight back against discrimination.

Social activism in the 1980s resulted in the widespread use of the term, with identity politics becoming common in dialogue among marginalized groups. Today, the term has been used on both sides of the aisle.

President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign website listed 19 different identity groups for which he had specific plans, including tribal nations, women, Black Americans, people with disabilities, and more. The plans offered promises for the advancement of causes close to these identity groups, such as the restoration of tribal lands and closing the racial wealth gap.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump’s appeals to white and rural voters paid off for him in both 2016 and 2020. Trump won the white vote in both election cycles and even improved among rural voters from 59% in 2016 to 65% in 2020.

However, critics of identity politics have argued that they just serve as a distraction from issues they say are more important, such as the state of the American economy. Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis criticized Vice President Kamala Harris over her claim that “communities of color that are most impacted” by the aftermath of Hurricane Ian should be allocated “[government aid] resources based on equity.”

“I think she’s trying to play identity politics with a storm and a natural disaster. I think it’s ridiculous,” said DeSantis. “It’s not going to happen. It’s totally not appropriate. You don’t have to politicize every single tragedy that happens in this country.”

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