It’s the Obama campaign’s least noticed achievement: a transcendance of the identity politics that infected the left since the 1970s and reached its nadir in the p.c. 1990s:
Yes, there do appear to be some older white voters in Appalachia and other pockets of the country who simply will not vote for a black man. But unless we are all drastically shocked on November 5, the broader truth is that vast numbers of white Americans are prepared to vote for a black candidate; and in the early part of the primary season, vast numbers of black Americans were perfectly happy to cast their vote for a white woman. More interestingly, the polls suggest overwhelming Latino and Asian support for a black candidate, erasing fears that those racial dynamics would come into play.
Where is identity politics still viable? Alas, the right has gone where the left once dwelt:
The selection of Palin as the vice-presidential candidate was guided by identity politics. McCain clearly believed that a female candidate would appeal to former Hillary voters. The sexism in that assumption is pretty staggering – and American women swiftly and mercifully proved McCain wrong. In fact, what has been striking about the reaction to Palin is that women, even in the first blush of the marketing, have always been much less impressed by her than men.
Then, as Palin ducked any real policy speeches, she became an identity politics figure for the white right. She went to the heartland, which she kept calling the “pro-America” part of the country. By the end of the campaign her message was almost entirely: “Vote for me. I’m like you. You’re like me. We’re better than other people.”
It wasn’t racist. It was just the reductio ad absurdum of political appeals based purely on cultural or ethnic identity.
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty.)