I’m launching this blog to advocate for seeing American politics and society differently.
All politics are identity politics of a kind. I say this as some one who has spent his adult life working in and around politics. Some of it is beneficial to society (“We’re the kind of people who care about kids”) and some is harmful (“Those people want to hurt our kids”).
For some time now, the harmful species of identification has been growing in the ecosystem. While much of it is well-intentioned, an effort to erase longstanding injustices, or create new levels of acceptance for marginalized people, some is definitely not. All of it has side effects. For now, I’ll just paraphrase Alan Abramowitz by saying more and more, we see people of a different political stripe not as people with whom we disagree, but a different kind of person all together. In identity terms, we could see the other side as belonging to the same national group as we do, but a different political sub-group. Instead, most of us see the other side as a whole different tribe. We see them as “them.”
To me and my reading of American history, this is dangerous ground.
What I would like to do here is start questioning our hardened political identities. I want to talk about what are actual differences between us, and what are perceived differences. What are the strong, deep divisions, and what are the small differences that happen to be apparent on the surface. I want to start a conversation that starts from the premise that we are people with differences, not different peoples.
That does not mean we have to check our values at gate of the public square. It doesn’t mean we declare ourselves “united” and quit talking about imbalances within our unity. This isn’t about preserving the status quo.
What this conversation is about — and I hope it becomes a conversation — is talking with respect and integrity. It’s about talking about different views with passion, and caring. Its’ about zooming out a little bit to remember every one of us has many identities, but we are all — all — human.