The Republican Party Should Rethink Its Approach Towards Identity Politics

In the days since the 2018 midterm elections, several current and outgoing minority Republican members of Congress have been openly discussing race, with some of them imploring their party to reexamine their view of identity politics.

First, outgoing Representative Mia Love (R-UT) used her concession speech to discuss the relationship between Republicans and minority voters, which former RedState Managing Editor Caleb Howe said made the speech “exceptionally great.” Love was the first black Republican woman and the first Haitian-American elected to Congress.

Love later published an op-ed in the Washington Post regarding Republicans and identity politics, in which she wrote:

Many on the right claim that some Americans oppose Republicans because of the proliferation of identity politics. But Republicans who accept that some Americans will inevitably vote Democratic simply because of their physical features or where they live are buying into the identity politics they so stridently object to.

But Republicans should not be so afraid of identity politics that we refuse to seek out the unique experiences that actually do contribute to people’s individual identity.

After Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) opposed the judicial nominations of Ryan Bounds and Thomas Farr, he too published an op-ed, titled “Only the Best Candidates for Federal Courts.” In his op-ed, Scott — who is the only black Republican in the Senate — urged the Republican Party to “strive to do better” with regards to race.

And outgoing Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who became the first Cuban-American elected to Congress when she won a special election in 1989, spoke to NPR about how the Republicans need to appeal to non-Republicans, including millennials, women, and minorities.

These three Republicans are sounding the alarm about the challenges facing the Republican Party in the future. The question is if the Republican Party will listen — or if it’s too concerned with avoiding “identity politics” at all costs.

I published a column today for Arc Digital about what the GOP misunderstands about identity politics. Below is an excerpt:

Representation matters. The more one party places a priority on ensuring its ranks are representative of the public while the other wantonly dismisses — or actively avoids — this idea, the more pronounced the disparity in representation will get. Furthermore, if one party fails to promote or encourage diversity in its own ranks for the sake of avoiding identity politics, the party will, to no one’s surprise, become less diverse.

Of course, whether wittingly or not, the GOP’s capture of rural and non-urban voters involves many of the same dynamics they decry on the left as “identity politics.” And part of what it means to play identity politics in this context, in the context of the Republican Party, is to maintain a kind of exclusivity on the concept of “real America.” Yet as Kevin Williamson recently observed, we cannot continue to see rural Americans as the only “real Americans” while ignoring the America that exists elsewhere, including cities. Doubling down on “rural voters” and “real America” might be a beneficial short-term strategy, but it is a sure loser in the long run as cities continue to expand, rural America continues to shrink, and the country’s diversification continues apace.

I have always believed the Republican Party was more willing than the Democratic Party to see the world as it actually is and possessed a more realistic view of human nature. Understanding identity and grappling with how that affects experience should be no different. Identity politics and intersectionality aren’t inherently negative, and the GOP puts itself at a significant disadvantage by outright dismissing them and forfeiting the valuable perspectives gained through diversity.

Read the full piece here, and let me know what you think in the comments!

The views expressed here are those of the  author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.