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The battle over identity politics, explained


“Class has always been racially determined in this country,” Heather McGhee, president of the left-leaning public policy group Demos, told me. “In a country where you can have a credo of equality and social mobility and the ability of any man to rise as far as his talents and drive can take him, that has always had to be put in relative terms.” [...]

McGhee of Demos, however, argued that the idea that Democrats should abandon identity politics and, therefore, potentially people of color for economic populism presents a false either-or scenario. She said that it’s possible for Democrats to talk about economic issues that affect people of all backgrounds while speaking to issues that affect people of color in particular. In fact, she said it could be possible to bring both of these issues together.

For example, Democrats could speak to how conservatives have leveraged identity politics in a way that’s also hurt white Americans. As McGhee put it, conservative politicians have used race to rile up their constituents on cultural issues while ignoring or even working against causes that would benefit their constituents. “The racial narrative has been the weapon,” she said, to get white Americans to vote for policies that go against their interests.