Get ready for what might be an unpopular opinion.
You have heard it said that identity politics is damaging to American society. You have watched as conservative politicians and the right-wing punditry class railed against the practice of addressing different groups of Americans separately. Indeed, you have also seen how the progressive left has used this political strategy to further their socialist agenda.
But do we really hate identity politics as much as we claim? In a word, no.
Yes, people on the right claim that identity politics is harmful and divisive. You can’t blame them given the fact that the hard left uses it to divide the country. But I would submit to you that this view is misguided. The notion that a black conservative would speak in favor of identity politics might seem a bit surprising at first. After all, it’s not exactly the establishment way of thinking, is it?
But as you take a deeper look into the matter, you will see that there is merit to the notion that the right must appeal to all groups of Americans rather than limiting itself to one voting bloc. Moreover, you might even see the hypocrisy inherent in a movement that decries identity politics while overtly practicing it.
Last month, the Young Black Leadership Summit was held in Washington D.C. It was a gathering in which a number of speakers — including President Donald Trump — addressed young black men and women who espouse conservative beliefs. Other prominent figures on the right such as TPUSA Founder Charlie Kirk and black conservative pundits Candace Owens and Brandon Tatum also gave speeches.
One of the participants — a young black Trump supporter who goes by “Sonny The Great” on social media — used the Q&A sessions as an opportunity to ask tough questions of the speakers. He essentially gave these speakers the same treatment Nick Fuentes is giving to what we know as “Conservative Inc.”
I asked Charlie Kirk why he participated in identity politics.
Here’s your answer👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/FJAlISuGab
— SonnyTheGreat🇺🇸 (@SonnyTheGreat_1) October 9, 2019
In particular, he questioned Kirk about the use of identity politics on the right:
“You claim that you’re against identity politics. However, I find that extremely hypocritical considering this event is called the Black Leadership Summit.’ You run events called the ‘Jewish Leadership Summit,’ ‘Latino Leadership Summit.’ We have people like Rob Smith saying ‘America’s favorite Gay black veteran conservative.’ Why have you not disavowed that and just called these events ‘American Leadership Summit?’”
You can watch the rest of the video thread of Sonny’s entire exchange with Kirk here.
Sonny’s questioning was brilliant in that it highlighted two problematic issues on the right. On one hand, we cheer events and organizations like Blexit that emphasize identity when their focus is promoting conservatism.
But on the other hand, conservatives also tend to criticize those who discuss their race and ethnicity. How often have you heard a conservative respond to racial issues by arguing that we should just all consider ourselves Americans?
Sonny’s observation brought up a critical point: When it comes to identity politics, conservatives can’t have it both ways. Either we embrace identity politics, or we abandon it altogether. This in-between approach makes conservatives look confused at best and disingenuous at worst.
So what should we do then? It seems to me that we have two choices: We can pretend that there are no differences between various groups of Americans and continue using the same approach that we always have. Or, we can acknowledge that different groups of people have different needs and apply conservative solutions to each.
I prefer the latter.
The reasoning is simple. A black man growing up in Chicago has different concerns than a white man growing up in Des Moines. There are conservative solutions for the issues both of these individuals face, but they are not necessarily the same solutions. There is no reason why the Republican Party can’t offer these solutions to both groups of people.
The GOP is currently at a crossroads. The party must expand its base if they wish to remain relevant. Some have already recognized this. Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is establishing a group that will support Republican minority and female candidates at the local and state level. This is where the GOP must battle the hard left.
While most of us focus on the presidency, long-term success will require the Republican Party to engage with minority votes in person. It has to support local candidates for city council, mayorships, and positions at the state level as well. Put simply, it’s not about Trump. It’s about your local and state government. The Democrats recognize this. It’s why I almost had to call Beto O’ Rourke my senator.
There are several things the conservative movement must do if it wishes to rebuild trust with the black community. It means abandoning failed strategies. We need to start using better arguments. We have to show up and speak with black voters face to face. We must make sure we aren’t repelling black voters with our rhetoric. Success with minority voters means understanding that some strategies are not worth conserving.
America’s demographics are changing. In 2045, whites will become the minority. If the Republican Party wants to survive, it must return to being the Party of Lincoln. Its leaders need to focus on engaging with minority voters instead of mostly ignoring them. In many inner cities, Republicans aren’t even on the ballot at the local level. The GOP has failed to support potential candidates who would like to challenge the Democrats.
The fact of the matter is that if we are going to combat the rise of socialism, the conservative movement has to start looking like America, not just part of it. It is time to make a choice: Will we stick with the same failed strategy and allow socialism to flourish? Or will we adapt to the changing political climate and fight to conserve a free society?
Follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight