What Is Identity Politics?

Conservative writer Matt K Lewis has a piece up over at This Week titled “Conservatives are Engaging in Identity Politics – and it’s Working.” But it’s interesting to see what Lewis’s implied definition of identity politics actually is:

As the GOP seeks to seize control of the U.S. Senate in the midterms, and hopefully take back the White House in 2016, the party faithful are increasingly turning to female and minority candidates.

We conservatives tend to oppose affirmative action in favor of merit, and resent the use of identity politics when employed by the left. So perhaps encouraging GOP candidates to politicize — either subtly or explicitly — their gender or race seems like a philosophical conundrum. At the same time, it is an entirely rational act of self-preservation.

Identity politics, in other words, is using a candidate’s (non-white) race or (non-male) gender as a “selling point.”

This understanding of how politics works only makes sense if you already assume that whiteness (and maleness) are “neutral” and that white, male candidates never play up their white maleness for political benefit.

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