Friday, January 04, 2008

It might come down to pure identity politics

With Obama and Huckabee taking the Iowa primaries, the specter of the general election being a showdown between those two candidates becomes more real. If that happens, then the election essentially becomes about identity politics. Obama and Huckabee are not very far apart on foreign policy issues and most state welfare issues. They are both pro-big government and favor an appeasement, neo-isolationist foreign policy. Both would risk having their presidency turn out like Carter's.

The only practical difference, therefore, is that one candidate has cast himself as an "African-American" while the other cast himself as an "Evangelical Christian." In essence, they both willingly play identity politics, but pander to different identities. Mind you, however, that Obama casting himself as "African-American" despite his mixed heritage is not a bid to capture the Black vote. The Black vote is already secured, and thus not relevant, as that block will vote for the Democractic candidate no matter who it is.

Rather, the upshot of an Obama v. Huckabee election would be to ask white voters whether they more accept one of two competing but equally invidious and yet unspoken propositions. On the one hand, Obama asks white voters to accept "that it is time for a Black President." That is, white voters are tacitly told that they must either vote for Obama or be a racist. On the other hand, Huckabee asks white voters to "stand up for the traditions that make America strong." That is he tacitly tells white voters that they must vote for him or vote against American nationalism. Frankly, this false dichotomy disgusts me.

Further, such a match-up has the potential to destroy the GOP. There are not enough evangelical voters to overcome the masses of white voters who are willing to accept that despite their personal belief that "they aren't racist," America still suffers from "institutional racism;" and that the only way to undo that forever is to elect as President a person that can at least pass as "Black," regardless of what his policies are.

I want this contest to be about the proper size, scope and role of the Federal Government. I want a candidate that says that the Federal Government should be limited, focused primarily on our security interests here and abroad, and dedicated to keeping taxes to a minimum. Instead, I'm going to be forced to chose between two people that think that the Federal Bureaucracy should be larger than it is now; that America needs to retreat from the world and ask its forgiveness (for any number of imagined sins); and that the only way to rescue me from almost certain poverty, illness and decrepitude is to ask my fellow citizens to pay for my healthcare and retirement through taxes. The only question that would remain, then, is whether I want to be a racist or un-American, and I resent our political class forcing me into that false choice, while offering me policies that I can't stand.

See also: Powerline: The Real Loser Last Night

UPDATE: Some say I'm over-reacting.
Others just seem to agree.


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