Identifying in our Politics

We’ve more than crossed the tipping point. The more you know of a person’s race, gender, vaccination status, town of residence, religious activism, if they wear a mask, or education level, you can say what political party they are. They hunt? Republican. They have a doctoral degree? Probably a Democrat. You’ll be wrong some times. Maybe a Latino from Texas or Florida is more likely to be Republican than a Latino in California, but even there the geography informs you. If we get two or three data points we can be 75% sure of your party.

It shouldn’t be a shock that if we can use your identity to predict how you vote this well, politics is a divisive thing in America. We live in an era where people are more invested in their personal “brands” than ever, and they like to advertise their identity. A Trump flag on your house, a mask on your face, or even just what neighborhood you’re living in is a way to advertise your brand. In a “smaller,” more interconnected world created through the internet, we tend to find the people most like us, and part of how we do that is virtue signaling our beliefs and values. In doing so, we’re also telling some people we’re not interested in having them be a part of our lives. We’re a part of the “community” we told you we’re a part of with the Ukrainian flag, or #BackTheBlue, or hammer and sickle in our profile- so stay away if you don’t agree.

It’s pretty obvious this brand, identity driven politics is divisive. People voting for the opposite side are quite literally rejecting our identity as a person. It’s not just that the other side has bad ideas, their existence is offensive now. People wonder why moderates are going extinct in public office, but the truth is kind of obvious- many active Democrats really hate Joe Manchin and think he is of nefarious ideals, and Republicans in many places feel the same about Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney. In fact, one could argue the party base hates moderation from their own even more than they hate the other side. This manifests itself in Democrats who are certain Donald Trump would be in jail by now if Merrick Garland wanted to make him be, or Republicans who think “Q” is going to come remove Joe Biden for stealing the election.

There is an increasing identity wrapped up in how voters view the political parties, but if us going further and further into every day life. Very, very few places are politically competitive, because Americans are “self sorting” into communities that think and live like themselves. America’s cities have a strong leftward tilt because left identifying people moved in and right-leaning people don’t want to live there. Rural areas trend even more red, because progressive minded people find less and less of interest there. Suddenly rural Colorado and Georgia are electing Boebert and MTG and Queens and Detroit are electing AOC and Rashida Tlaib. Most of America doesn’t even live in a politically competitive place, and know less and less people who disagree with them.

When MTG talked last week about a “national divorce,” she was simply doubling down on her divisive political brand, but it’s pretty much happening around us. We’re sorting ourselves away from each other. Our tolerance for people on the other side is disappearing from our political consciousness. Ron DeSantis is building a Presidential campaign on banning books, but Tennessee is one upping him by banning drag shows. Increasingly it’s hard to live in a place where you are a political minority, because things you want to do in your life are not being allowed by the majority. Identity is our politics now, and it is way more complex than simply race, gender, sexuality, or other demographic traits- it’s literally how we live.


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