Friday, January 28, 2005

The Death of Identity Politics

From Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:

"Because of her race, her symbolism and her personal story, Rice is not a run-of-the-mill appointment but a historic one. Which makes some of the more vitriolic charges against the first African American woman ever chosen for the office once held by Thomas Jefferson particularly wounding and politically risky."

As I was listening to Sean Hannity last night, I noticed that a lot of conservative commentators want to make race an issue in Presidential nominations. "Democrats just talk diversity" because they're opposed to Rice for Sec. of State or Gonzales for Atty. General.

Personally, I don't find the nomination of Dr. Rice all that historic - we've had a female Secretary of State, we've had an African-American Secretary of State. Big deal - she's an African-American woman - what next, the first African-American woman from Texas with 9 fingers?

It's disingenious to advance someone solely because of their racial, ethnic, or gender identity - that's the whole argument that conservatives make against affirmative action. I agree with that, unless the institution in question has demonstrated an institutional bias of exclusion, a problem government hasn't had for quite sometime. No institution in America better mirrors the diversity of America than the federal government. Look to Charles Goodsell for statistical evidence. Colin Powell said in his autobiography that once the U.S. Army was integrated, it was a pure meritocracy with a blind eye to color, and the federal government as a whole has been this way for almost 30 years.

If there's a backlash against anyone for coming out against the president's nominees on the basis of identity and not ideology, it's a sad reflection on America. These nominations were not designed to advance an identity politics agenda, like Thurgood Marshall or Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. These nominations were designed to advance an ideologoical agenda and that these people are from minority groups - well, that's a testament to the diversity of thought in this country. Not all people of color are Democrats.

I think (at least I hope) we're close to a place where people are starting to become color-blind and that opposition to Rice was because she takes the seat of one of the few dissenters in the president's cabinet.

Besides, nominations don't reflect racial acceptance anyway - elections do because they require a large and broad assembly of people to accept a candidate without bias - in some cases, people with little education that live in segregated communities.

With the exception of a few old timers, the people in the Senate have been working with a diverse crowd of people as peers their whole lives - from their days at Harvard or Yale, the agencies their committees oversee, the CBO, their congressional staffs...They stopped seeing a person's color a long time ago - Republican or Democrat.


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