Joe Biden, Disrupting Identity Politics: Liner Notes

My third column of the week is posted at The Federalist, “Will Joe Biden’s Black Support Squash ‘Identity Politics’ In 2020?

This piece was more or less written by request, based on Biden cleaning up in the latest poll out of South Carolina. Internally, there was a joke (or was it?) that this is my “beat.”

I have no particular brief for Biden; I have watched his bad decisions for decades. But I suppose the story of the Democrats becoming more of an “upstairs/downstairs” party than ever could be called one of my “beats” — and it turns out to be driving the 2020 campaign at the moment.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s notes, when returning to a familiar theme, I do try to look for fresh twists, ways to advance the analysis and conversation. In this piece, I explain why it’s not really correct to say — as many pundits do — that Biden is relying on the Democrats not moving on from the Party of Obama. The party is starting to move on, but Biden is not relying on Obama’s coalition — aside from the key bloc of black voters discussed in the column.

In writing about the pragmatism usually shown overall among black voters, I might also have added a sentence or two about black Democrats in Virginia having a more mature (or resigned) attitude when top Democratic officials turned out to have blackface photos in their pasts. I have mentioned this once or twice previously, but it is part of the larger pattern at work in Democratic politics today.

I also mention in passing that Bernie Sanders also generally eschews identity politics (the subject of a prior column). It may be a function of experience and name ID that the two most likely Dem nominees are straight, old white dudes who are not into identity politics — or perhaps not. Either way, circumstances have thrown an obstacle in the path of the identity politics crowd in this cycle. And like the 2016 GOP primaries, the collective action dilemma may make that obstacle even more difficult to overcome.

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