Changing your mind about identity politics can cost you everything

Forfatter: Ezra Klein Avid
Forlag: Reader Press (USA)
POLICY / American politics is not so much about changing existing policies, but more about appealing to the divisions between peoples.


"The United States is made up of well-functioning and well-adapted parts that are put together into a dysfunctional whole." The man behind this wording is called Ezra Klein and has written about identity politics i USA. Klein is an American journalist, blogger and political commentator. He has been a columnist for The Washington Post and votes for the Democrats. He has started the website Vox, a background news site, where he examines how the media affects the political situation in the United States, and how the political situation affects the media.

He does not tell a single story through the eyes of individual actors. He is also not interested in allegations that systems are collapsing or collapsing due to individual fates.

In his opinion, the individual parts work excellently, and he finds it neither shocking nor surprising that Trump won the election in 2016. The system was in place for that. But how can the system facilitate it when it is not at all built before?

Willingness to compromise

"The American political system is not made for strong polarizations, but for a willingness to compromise," he writes. The willingness to compromise was originally to go through a so-called Electoral College which consists of 538 voters, and where an absolute majority of 270 voters is needed to win the election. In 2016, Trump got 304 voters, while Clinton got 227. Sanders got only one. An increasing polarization puts the system under pressure and creates major rifts in the socio-political composition, geographically and culturally, even if the system was originally intended to create justice. Changing your mind about identity politics can cost you everything.

Klein's claim is that anyone who is to achieve anything in American politics must participate in identity politics: "When politicians, including non-religious people, end their speeches with 'God Bless America', it is not to call for higher powers, but because they want to appeal to our basic identity. If you do not believe me, ask yourself why there are so few politicians who have come forward as atheists or agnostics. "

Historical roots

The first part of the book is a historical part, where the author, based on his claim that something has changed radically in American politics, goes back to the parties' historical roots to explain what has happened. One could say that the United States is divided: horizontally and vertically, where the vertical division goes between races and ethnic groups. The horizontal division goes between the democratic and the republican political division of the country.

These groups of voters know less and less about each other. The fact that there are only two parties, and that these parties are moving further and further apart, is in itself a sign that the country is tearing in two.

For example, fewer and fewer people in the Republican Party believe that racism is the reason why blacks do not get anywhere in society, while more on the democratic side believe the opposite.

The division between the two parties has increased when it comes to a number of identity policy issues, such as whether immigrants can be said to strengthen US development or not.

"Today," Klein writes, "it is impossible to become president of the Republican Party if one promises to raise taxes, while both Bush and Reagan, who were both Republicans, did just that."

Identity markers

Such issues have become central identity markers for particular constituencies, and US policy is less about changing existing policies and more about appealing to the existing divisions between peoples, and making it even greater. It's about winning the opposites between the various groups of voters.

Many people also do not vote because they liker the party they vote for, but because they hate the other party even more. Many also do not dare to vote across the political party to which they belong.

Another thing is how opinion formation occurs. Klein writes: "We like to think that we choose our politics by slowly and methodically developing a worldview, using that worldview to generate conclusions about ideal taxes and health and foreign policy…" The truth is, however, the author claims that we choose political issues approximately as we choose food from a restaurant menu, ie according to taste and preconceived opinions, and that our political opinions are part of what he calls «our psychological makeup».

Psychology and politics

We clearly understand the United States best if we study both psychology and politics. In the same way that Obama used liberal psychology to influence the electorate in 2008 and appealed to unity and not to division, Trump has done the opposite. But both use identity-political rhetoric.

A politician who says he does not like immigrants, and claims that he says this because he refuses to be politically correct, uses identity politics. But the claim of political incorrectness can in turn be a cover-up maneuver to divide and rule, a tactic Trump wins. Trump plays on fear and division, and knows that he wins by creating fear.

Ezra Klein has previously pointed out how Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, the Republican Party's great ideologue after Trump came to power, deliberately "occupied" the brains of Americans with fake news that would stop the people's independent thinking and bring them out of control, something he was able to.

What should Americans do? Maybe like Erik Hagerman, who has isolated himself on a pig farm in Ohio and refuses to hear anything about Trump, either through newspapers, television or in any other way, and who demands that all media communication be removed when he visits his family, and who denies them to mention the name of the American president?

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