Republicans disdainfully call it "identity politics," this outreach by Democrats to the many target audiences that make up what we used to call "the melting pot" but is more accurately described as the patchwork quilt comprising the American people.
That's because, when they think of "the voter," "the people," "REAL Amurricans," Republicans have a very clear image in mind: a middle-aged white man with a middle-class job, a wife and kids who are dependent on him, and the grandparents, who are also white and live in the suburbs or a retirement community.
That's why the 2016 Republican convention looked like a 1956 Memphis country club: it's the only identity they can wrap their heads around. "The norm," to them, is a mirror image of the people they see and live and work with every day. Hence the countless photos of congressional panels whose entire membership is white men (and a few blonde women) between 35 and 65, and a recent photo of the entire class of 80 or so new Republican congressional interns, in which exactly one face--waaaaaaay in the back of the picture--was not white.
Democrats, on the other hand, call it "inviting everyone to the table." These are the people the GOP ignores, at its peril: African Americans; independent-minded women; the GLBTQ community; Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, immigrants; people of all faiths and of no faith; executives and janitors, gardeners, cooks, and professors; college students, millennials, single parents; the elderly who rely on Social Security and Medicare (both created by Democrats). And anyone else who's interested.
Having named them, Democrats invite them all to have an equal voice in governing our country, making policy, and keeping America as great as it has ever been. That's also why the Democratic convention, unlike the GOP's, looked like America.
That's not identity politics; that's a political identity.
Why does it matter?
It matters because the GOP population--those white guys--have owned the American pie for 400 years, even when black people grew the wheat, ground the flour, picked the apples, refined the sugar, and baked--and served--the pie. And today, when those black and brown people--as well as Asians and women and GLBTQ people and the rest of us--announce that it's time for everyone to get a piece of the pie they labored over, those folks say, "Hell, no! You're playing identity politics! It's our pie!" I suspect that's because, now that a lot of people have been insisting that Black Lives Matter, the GOP has invited a new group into its fold, too, people who don't fit their country-club stereotype: white supremacists and members of the KKK. Maybe that's their idea of diversity.
Now, in full disclosure, I myself grew up as a privileged white male in the South in the 1950s and '60s. And despite a few setbacks and failures in my life, I have always had all the pie I wanted, whether I deserved it or earned it or worked for it or not. It's just there for me, because I'm a white guy. A gay man, but a white guy. And I personally enjoy sharing the pie--whoever baked it--with everyone who comes to the table, just as the Native Americans did at the first Thanksgiving and as Jesus did at Cana. But some of my brethren, some of those unreconstructed, deplorable white people, are still demanding that they get the whole pie ... though they might occasionally drop a few crumbs in the laps of "the good ones." (I'm talking to you, Herman Cain, Ben Carson, David Clarke, Katrina Pierson, Clarence Thomas, Allen West...)
But here's the thing: when black and brown and yellow and gay and female people say Our Lives Matter (Too), we simply don't want to hear you whining about "White Pride." You've had all the pie long enough, and your lives have been the only ones that mattered for 400 years in America, and frankly, you've got damn little to be white-proud about.
Which brings me to Donald Trump
The Republican Party has been laying the groundwork for Donald Trump's candidacy for two generations. Since Nixon and Agnew railed against hippies and pot-heads and draft dodgers and radical feminists; since Reagan railed against welfare queens driving Cadillacs; since Bush 41 railed against Willie Horton ... since time immemorial, the party has been ginning up the anger and resentment and violence of the uneducated white male working class in this country.
They've done it through political targeting led by Lewis Powell, Lee Atwater, Frank Luntz, and Karl Rove; through evangelical hypocrites like Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell; through radio and TV personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly; political columnists like Charles Krauthammer, Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza; the "think tanks" that underwrite them like the Rutherford Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute; and through self-serving ideologues like Phyllis Schlafly (R.I.P.), Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani.
For 50 years they've stoked resentment of blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, Native Americans, and anyone else who wants a slice of the white man's pie. They've encouraged violence at polling places; the militarization of civil police forces; a relentless, illogical, anti-scientific, and race-based "crack-down" on drugs; and unending attempts to restrict the right to vote by anyone who doesn't agree with their white-people's-party ideology. They've packed the Supreme Court with Lewis Powell clones like John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito.
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