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Sunday, April 25, 2004

The identity politics ladder  

Matt Bai in The New York Times Magazine:
[G]ay marriage is likely to become a prime topic in states like Ohio, which passed a controversial defense-of-marriage law earlier this year. Although it is often said that issues like abortion and gay marriage are important to Republicans because they mobilize evangelical Christians and other base voters, the more complicated truth is that they are often crucial to winning over swing voters in rural counties, who tend to be economically anxious but also socially conservative.
It's actually not complicated at all - merely contrary to conventional wisdom among the elites. Here's the way the identity politics ladder works:
Culture trumps class.
Class trumps gender.
Gender trumps race.
Anyone whose worldview is awash in half-digested economic determinism will be constantly confused by downscale voters' inexplicable failure to vote their economic interests (which the upscale yet firmly Democrat knowledge-class doesn't do, either, to no one's dismay). Red-state and blue-state voters of all classes differ from their counterparts. Rich and poor women have different takes on feminist candidates and policies. Male and female blacks have different interests, which could threaten racial electoral solidarity - if males voted more. (Franchise forfeiture for felons may be the unacknowledged protector of black female political power.) Some African-American leaders claim that, for them, race is culture, but that argument only rings true on the lowest rung.

Because the verbal elite automatically assume that their culture is the default one, they don't see this. When they do, they assume it only matters to the base or at the extremes - rather than smack in the middle, among Ohio swing voters.

Maybe Bai's blinders are beginning to slip.

posted by Kelly | 10:58 PM link