I've filled out dozens of job applications over the past couple weeks, and with each page I am confronted with the absolutely impossible task of defining myself. Questions pop up like, "What are the 3 words that best describe you?", "Check the box next to the ethnicity that best describes you" and "In 160 characters or less, what makes you unique?"
The full-time job of defining myself on a page for employers to review might not be so overwhelming, if not for the several social media accounts that already demand that I condense myself into a few painstakingly chosen descriptors--I think my Twitter account says something like "Blogger, homeschooler, wife". If you glance down on the right hand column of this blog, you'll see several adjectives I've chosen to let readers know what I'm about.
Today's social landscape demands self-representation through a few simplistic facets of ourselves-- "tags", if you will, so others can make similar split-second judgments online to the ones they make in person. They also help us identify potential allies or beneficial relationships based on what categorical boxes you're both renting space in.
Our social lives are built on categorical identity and deliberate, calculated self-expression. Naturally, our national politics are built on identity, too.
There's no greater hot-button issue in social politics than gay rights. Some of my readers whose memories go a little farther back than 1993 may be a little perplexed as to how our country could have possibly gotten to this point with regard to homosexuality, in both popular attitude and policy. After all, it wasn't until 1974 that the American Psychiatric Association stopped defining homosexuality as a mental illness.
I contend that part of the answer lies in identity politics. The Left is much more deft at manipulating and maneuvering through identity politics than the Right, who consistently find themselves on the defensive... it's only after the debate is over that conservatives recognize, bitterly, how the liberals have used identity to their favor.
The Left's strategy for winning with identity politics can be broken down into three words, which seems fitting given the context:
Projecting, in this context, is the application of a broad category to a group of people who share a characteristic or behavior in common. Categories must be portrayed as permanent and defining, on par with race (even though it's a social construct) or (for almost everyone) nationality.
So if Alfredo's parents are from South America, then Alfredo's main identifier is his Latino ethnicity, along with Rosa, Juan, and Ramon. To liberals, Alfredo is Latino, with a capital L.
Or alternatively, if Freddie is sexually attracted to other men, then Freddie's main identifier must be his gayness. Who is Freddy? To liberals, Freddie is Gay with a capital G., or to be more inclusive, a member of "LGBTQ".
Once a category has been successfully established as permanent and defining, then liberals must protect the category, which, according to their logic, protects everyone in the category.
This sort of rhetoric is laced throughout our national political dialogue: some Republican questions the necessity or benefit of a policy geared toward a specific category of people, say, an adult ESL program, and the liberal responds indignantly, "How dare you not support this bill! You're bigoted against Hispanics!"
Never mind if the program actually benefits Hispanics; the point is that liberals believe it's a moral obligation to the Hispanics to provide the ESL program, so anyone who stands opposed to such policies is morally wrong and must be racist.
If you want more examples on how the left does this, watch Chris Matthews; he's an expert at this strategy. Matthews once accused Newt Gingrich of racism for calling Barack Obama "the Food-stamp President".
Liberalism is built on victimhood.* Without a victim group, liberals have no one to label as
These sorts of one-dimensional, defining categories generate a victim mentality, if not directly among its members, then on their behalf, and that victim mentality is the driving force behind the liberal agenda.
Remember Jason Collins, the basketball player who came out just a few months ago? Collins was praised by the Left as a hero for announcing he was gay. At the same time, those who expressed apathy or were exasperated by the media bandwidth being spent on Collins were ridiculed full-force as homophobic and nasty, as if they were attacking a defenseless individual under persecution by the general public. Jason was a hero to the Left; he was conditioned as special. He even got a call from the President himself.
What made Collins so special, or gay football player Michael Sam, who came out soon after him? Why did his announcement cause such a media hype? Because as homosexuals, Collins and Sam had been conditioned by the Left as victims. Collins was a victim of persecution from the religious right. As such, Collin's coming out afforded the Left the opportunity to lash out at religious conservatives in "defense" of Collin's brave act. Both Sam and Collins' announcements were chances for liberals to repeat their victimizing mantra, "Look at all these hateful religious people! Collins and Sam were victims; it took such courage for them to come out".
With the LGBTQ community, liberals have created an entire group of victims through exactly this method. What most people don't realize is that this victimhood is as much about destroying the people set up as their persecutors--religious Americans--as it is about affirming the morality of their behavior.
Of course, the truth is that conservatives weren't impressed by Collins because he's not a good basketball player, and because they generally are apathetic toward athletes' personal lives. They're much more interested in merit than they are in personal preferences.
To me, the most damaging aspect of liberal identity politics is the fact that it strips people down to a single characteristic: you're "gay", you're "latino", you're "black", etc. It may be effective in pushing forward the liberal agenda, but it's also sadly dehumanizing.
I have gay friends, and they are some of the most fun people to be around. I don't see them as "gay", I see them as whole individuals, with rich personalities, unique gifts, and personal goals. Not as one-dimensional members of a victim class, but as complex, vibrant people like you and I.
This, I think, illustrates the fundamental divide between liberals and conservatives. Where liberals see people's categories and their inherent victimhood, conservatives see people's merit and their inherent worth.
*Some of my readers may find this statement harsh or downright offensive, but I encourage them to really listen next time they hear Hillary Clinton, President Obama, or Ed Murray speak. Liberal rhetoric is effective in that it stirs up your emotions, your sense of justice and compassion, and this clouds a listener's ability to see the arguments themselves.