by Harry Hempy, Green Party Jamestown, Colorado
In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, pundits and political party leaders have filled the airwaves speaking about identity politics. Someone figured out that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spent just 10% of their campaign effort on issues and policy. They spent 90% of their time appealing to certain unhappy, oppressed sections of the electorate and scapegoating the “others” as deplorables.
U.S. political campaigns have increasingly used identity politics in divisive, basically dishonest, ways for 30+ years. But campaign theorists, particularly in the Democratic Party, are now having second thoughts about dividing voters along identity lines (race, gender, wealth, etc).
Professor Kimberle Crenshaw developed the theory of intersectionality in the 1980’s. The feminist movement was in full swing but the movement was divided on racial lines. Black people were marginalized and systematically excluded from decision making and leadership positions. Intersectionality is the study of how different power structures interact in the lives of minorities, specifically black women. Her name and her work has become an introductory point for feminists of all stripes.
Today intersectionality is a powerful tool, used to understand the interaction of power structures on minorities on a mufti-dimensional basis, including a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, family of origin, community environment, education, wealth, age, ability, skin color, hair color, height, weight, etc, etc.
There is also growing recognition that these intersectional characteristics are not binary. There are more than two genders; more than two sexual orientations; more than black and white; more than blonde and brunette; more than fat and skinny. Just to pick an example, the oppression of white homosexuals may be much more severe for people between 5′ 10” and 5′ 11”. Granular intersectional data can be used to discover systematically oppressed sections of people that would not otherwise be obvious.
As with any powerful technology, we must use intersectionality with care. In my view, there is no redeeming value in using intersectional data to fine tune an election campaign strategy to divide (and conquer) the electorate. Using intersectional data to track trends toward less oppression is a good thing, though.
Intersectionality and identity politics has been a prominent topic of conversation in the Green Party of Colorado and the Green Party, nationally, in recent months.
This is a call for balance in the Green Party. Understanding and resisting oppression in all sections of society is critically important. But so is unity, solidarity, and common purpose. The party’s ability to survive depends on our unity, not our divisions.
With the Trump victory, for the first time in my life, I am truly fearful for the future of the United States, and democratic governments around the world. People must become united in solidarity if we are to have a chance of resisting the Trump administration that is shaping to be very reactionary.
I urge all Greens to embrace solidarity with all peoples; don’t be divided; find the love.