There is something endogenous to the game of politics that leads strategists and politicians to appeal to people differently across demographic groups—by their profession, income level, education level, subculture, age, gender, etc. As much as this fact may lead, at times, to blatant pandering or, at its worst, outright distasteful messaging, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. Effective political action in a free society requires popular support and popular support requires a measure of marketing. The point at which this process becomes outright wrong is when individual politicians, parties, or interest groups stoke unhealthy divisions in our society—or, worse, create divisions where there had been none—and try to capitalize upon them for their own personal gain.
To the disgrace of their own party and the American political system in general, the modern American left has, under the administration of Barack Obama, become a one-note song, trying desperately to split society along whatever faults it can find. Where it cannot find any, it creates them. The final result is that the party that has prided itself on the claim of having improved equal rights for racial minorities, women, and homosexuals has now come to the implicit conclusion that the worst thing that could happen to it politically is for there to be no contention between the races, between the sexes, or over gay rights. They have come to the silent realization that should those issues ever truly become a thing of the past, the Democratic party would lose its claim to a monopoly over those demographics and have to focus its message on issues that affect all Americans equally: economic policy, national defense, foreign relations, and questions of constitutional power.
The result is a political culture on the left that is perpetually in search of new dividing lines. When Obama was elected in 2008, their narrative was about Wall Street versus Main Street. The debate over ObamaCare in 2009 attempted to turn the discussion of healthcare into one about the youth versus older Americans—groups which, though they were not initially divided on the issue, are already starting to be now that the system is in place.
In 2011, courtesy of the Occupy movement, it was about the ‘one percent’ versus the ‘ninety-nine percent.’ In 2012, they turned to the old standbys of race and gender as the left’s response to Republican concerns about Voter ID (justified by the ACORN scandal of 2008) turned into accusations of racism.
Moving into 2013, and with such a concerted voice one might think (!) it was cooked up by a Democratic strategist and swallowed unquestioningly by leftist blogs and magazines, chatter arose accusing Republicans of a ‘War on Women.’ Now, so it was said, Voter ID laws were a form of sexual discrimination meant to keep women out of the voting booth (ironically, at a time when women in their mid-thirties and under are more fiscally conservative than at any time in recorded history). Meanwhile, the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case in Florida was, without evidence, deemed a racially motivated killing by the left-wing media and pounced upon by commentators as an example of widespread, deep-seated racism run rampant in American culture.
When those slogans and arguments, by their own lack of substance, failed to find a receptive audience beyond the left’s base, as 2014 approached, the signs were already clear that Democrats’ midterm strategy would be a renewed appeal to women and a push for equal pay legislation, accusing Republicans of being opposed to equal opportunities for women simply because they oppose the federal government dictating what employers must pay their employees (despite the ironic revelation that the White House shows as much, if not more, of a discrepancy in women’s pay within its own walls).
As the midterm elections remain seven months away and will open the floodgates of strategy and speculation about 2016, Americans can expect more cycling between these accusations− “Racism!”, “Sexism!”, “Homophobia!”, “Classism!”, “Ageism!”− ad nauseum. Rep. Steve Israel’s comment this week that “Not all” Republicans are racist but that “to a significant extent, the Republican base has elements that are animated by racism” suggests that, three and a half months into the year, they may already be getting tired of their own line that Americans (and Republicans in particular) are all repressed sexists who don’t want women to succeed. Who wouldn’t?
Through all of the smears, accusations, pandering, and slander, however, a remarkable thing has transpired. Americans have proven remarkably resilient to the left’s approach. When Democratic strategists have worked tirelessly to find or create rifts between segments of the American population, their wedges have found no place to rest, and what divisions were stirred did not last long. That fact alone is testament to the resilience of a society of people who, at the end of the day, view themselves as individuals far more than as merely cogs in some larger machine or morsels extracted from a larger group to whom they owe their allegiance. It is a tribute to how far America has come since the Civil Rights movement and movements for women’s independence from decades past. Americans today are not so inclined to think of themselves and others in terms of labels and groups, and it is a tragedy that it still has political leaders and strategists who, for their own personal gain and empowerment, would have it be otherwise.