Monday, January 07, 2008

Death Knell for Identity Politics

George Will seems to think that Obama's win in Iowa and now probably New Hampshire means the end of identity politics:
But Iowans gave even more support to Barack Obama, whose political persona is anodyne.

His success splendidly refutes the Democratic Party's longstanding embrace of the theory of identity politics and its corollary, the theory of categorical representation. Those theories are that individuals are defined, politically, by their race, gender or ethnicity; hence people can be properly represented only by people from the same category. Those theories look even more preposterous and dated after Obama's success in a state with a negligible minority population. Among the losers in Iowa were Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all the others who still subscribe to a racial narrative of strife and oppression that has remained remarkably unchanged through 50 years of stunning progress, of which Obama's candidacy is powerful evidence.
I am not convinced that identity politics is dead and gone, but Obama's success does give me hope.

I have made no secret of the fact that I don't like Obama's politics or policies. I think they are in large part a road that America should not follow. But what I do like about Obama's rhetoric is that he is forward looking, searching for solutions to America's problems. While I don't like his proposed solutions, I do like the fact that he is looking for solutions. Unlike his counterparts, he does not appear to be squaring one group against another (at least no too much) nor is he running with one foot in the past.

From a political operative perspective, I have not seen so disciplined a presidential campaign as Obama's. They have not shirked their message for the flavor of the week message, nor have they had their dirty laundry aired (assuming they have some). He has been focused, on message and on target with his peaking. A win tomorrow, a win in South Carolina and Nevada and Obama will be under full steam come February 5.

Note to Mrs. Clinton, that light you see at the end of the tunnel is not salvation, but the Obama train bearing down on you. The only way I could be more delighted would be if there were a Republican candidate with a message delivery and operation like Obama's.

1 comment:

Donald Douglas said...

The trick for Obama - if he becomes the Democratic standard-bearer - is whether his mantra of change includes burying the interest group politics of victimization that the old-line civil rights organizations uphold. This is the real promise of Obama's campaign for black America. An Obama presidency might truly break with the stale redistributionist politics of traditional Democratic constituencies. He might really press for hope in a politics of entrepreneurship and private opportunity, a politics of personal and family responsibility, and politics of educational achievement and professional aspirations for historically disadvantaged communities.