Identity Politics and Tribalism: What If You Don’t Belong?

Why do we Americans keep damaging our political process by perpetuating a false choice between liberal and conservative, otherwise known as Democrat versus Republican? In the same vein, why are people not allowed to change viewpoints without being cast a turncoat? Do identity politics and parties leave us trapped in political boxes?

Even Ronald Reagan, the Republican icon, switched parties. “I didn’t leave the Democratic party,” Reagan said. “The party left me.”

Upon first meeting a member of the extended, blended family, I was asked if I was also a conservative. Why,  yes, I believe in individual freedoms and keeping the government out of people’s private business. My questioner cut to the chase by asking about abortion. Turned out, we agreed it should be legal, medically-performed and ideally, rare. Because of this position, we would both be characterized as Democrats by some conservatives. Not so.

My Democrat sister and brother-in-law have repeatedly asked me and my boyfriend about gun control. In response, I question why there seems to be a notion that banning certain guns is better than banning certain people from buying them. I applaud Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, for getting his Fix NICS legislation across the finish line as part of a spending bill signed into law in March. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s not the be all, end all. Such incremental steps are better than doing nothing, which is what would likely happen if some comprehensive gun law reform was attempted.

How did a girl who grew up playing lacrosse in suburban New Jersey come to have different views on gun ownership than many East Coast denizens? One aspect obviously is how we obtain information? This video includes the claim by a California lawmaker that the automatic rifle gun in his hands can release 30 bullets in half a second. That simply is not true. While the video is from several years ago and widely mocked, I bet that most people who have never fired any kind of gun would think the claim is true. Similarly, do you know what an ArmaLite Rifle is? You may have heard is mistakenly referred to as an assault rifle. To learn more about gun definitions, I commend you to read this Guns & Ammo article.

How did I begin to familiarize myself with guns? My boyfriend in Texas introduced me to hunting, for which I use a rifle or a shotgun, depending on whether I am hunting four-legged creatures (deer, hog, javelina) or winged-creatures (duck, dove). I have taken lessons and hunters education. I still have more to learn. What is the point of me telling you all this? Because I am in favor of gun ownership for people who are not criminals or otherwise demonstrate a danger (e.g., people convicted of stalking), then I must be a no-holds-barred Trump supporter, right? Totally wrong. The problem is we make these leaps and false assumptions about people all the time.

Let’s do a word-association game. Fill in the blank after each of the following: free trade (wait, that’s hard because conservatives favor free trade but the Republican president is the self-proclaimed “Tariff Man”); gay rights (wait, that depends, Dick Cheney has supported gay unions, although a subsequent dispute between his daughters, Mary, a lesbian, and Liz, a Republican member of Congress, was a bit of a head-scratcher); fiscal responsibility (whoops, this is a doozy because Republicans used to care about balanced budgets but they cut taxes without significant cuts to spending). In other words, the stereotypes are out the window. Put another way, I do not agree with all women on politics, or all white women, or all Christians, or all hunters, or all Texans, or all college-educated people, etc. Enough with identity politics and stereotypes.Identity politics and escaping political boxes

And that is a good thing. Let’s stop blind adherence to talking points and bumper-sticker politics. Take immigration. Many liberals and many conservatives fully support legal immigration. The issue of caravans approaching the border, however, brought about issues that do not address how to process people claiming asylum.

We found ourselves questioning whether soldiers should be at the border in a support function and how was it that tear gas was fired into Mexico. Those are valid questions, yet we should be questioning how we can process asylum claims by thousands of people with 400 immigration judges. How we will keep track of people who are awaiting resolution of their immigration cases? What happens to the tens of thousands of people who illegally cross our southern border? Sticking to the old scripts won’t work to solve our problems. If I am concerned about illegal immigrants, I am not a xenophobe. I am someone who wants comprehensive immigration reform so the people we want to come here to work and be free from persecution can do so, and the people that we don’t want coming in illegally are limited from doing so.

The Sage Leopard,
Substance, Not Sloganeering