What do people believe? Do they believe in a gender? A sexual orientation? An ethnicity? None of the above. People believe in ideas and values, and that’s what they should base their vote on.
Bernie Sanders was recently accused of telling Elizabeth Warren that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. The only way that could be true is due to America’s obsession with identity politics, the practice of voting for a candidate that looks like or has the same traits as oneself.
The phenomenon formed in reaction to the “colorblindness” policies argued by the Reagan administration. This included deregulating key points in a structure, like affirmative action and measures to equalize voting opportunities, meant to help people of color onto their feet after centuries of degradation.
Identity politics is now a common trope focused on by both political parties. In the midterms, the Democrats nominated 41% women to the House, including 48% for non-incumbent seats according to Dr. Dave Hopkins, a political scientist at Boston College. While the left adds more women to its side of the aisle, Republicans seem to become older, whiter and more male.
There are only 14 non-white Republicans of the 276 serving in the Senate, House or as a governor, according to the Washington Post. The analysis also found that “the density of whites in the GOP is heavier now than the density of whites was in the Democratic Party in 1997.” Additionally, Republicans account for only 18% of the women and 13% of the people of color in Congress according to the Congressional Research Service.
Each combination of ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender brings a different set of perspectives and experiences that voters should value in ultimately making their decision.
It’s just not the first thing, and definitely not the only thing, a voter should look to. In the end, policy has to win out. What a person wants to do in office matters more than their skin color.
Take Pete Buttigieg for example. He is gay, but he’s not the only one that cares about rights for the LGBTQ community. All of the candidates on the left are arguing for advances for the community.
People should also be voting for the policy they believe in, not the one they think (or the one someone else is telling them) can win. Voters may be swayed to latch onto ideas that are more towards the middle of the aisle because they’d just like to see some change, but is it not better to aim for all the change that’s possible?
If you believe in Medicare For All, vote for the candidate that agrees. If you believe in forgiving student debt, vote for the candidate that agrees. If you believe in certain immigration policies, vote for the candidate that will do the best to fight for what you want out of their office.
People also shouldn’t be voting to get someone else out of office. Democrats are eager to vote out President Trump, and Republicans have been eager to get their foes to the left ousted before as well, but neither is right. Citizens should be drawn to vote because they’ve been inspired by a candidate and their policies.
There’s no point in voting out of hate or annoyance. Voting to reject an incumbent just sows division, harps on dissatisfaction rather than hope. Hope is the driving force of democracy, as voters can cast their ballots with an idea that can lead to change.
Don’t compromise beliefs simply because they seem impossible to enact. If people show support for the actions and people they believe can enact the most positive change, maybe they can even influence others to follow their hearts and minds as well.