Democrats and the identity politics game

Chris Hitchens pens a must-read in today’s WSJ on Democrats and identity politics:

Let us give hearty thanks and credit to Rudy Giuliani, who has never by word or gesture implied that we would fracture any kind of “ceiling” if we elected as chief executive a man whose surname ends in a vowel.

Yet actually, it would be unprecedented if someone of Italian descent became the president of the United States and there was a time — not long ago at that — when the very idea would have aroused considerable passion. Now that it doesn’t, is it not possible to think that that very indifference is the real “change”?

I recall thinking, when Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman on a major-party ticket in 1984, that she would also, if elected, be the first vowel-ending Veep. Indeed, in San Francisco for the Democratic convention that year, I listened to the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muse over drinks on the possibility of a future Cuomo-Ferraro “all wop” ticket.

The fact that these were now joking words and not fighting words struck me as happily suggestive. (I also thought that a President Walter Mondale would be a very high price to pay for having the first female vice president, and that President Mario Cuomo would be an even higher price to pay to prove that we no longer held any rooted prejudice against the descendants of Mediterranean immigrants.)

People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of “race” or “gender” alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.

Madeleine Albright has said that there is “a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” What are the implications of this statement? Would it be an argument in favor of the candidacy of Mrs. Clinton? Would this mean that Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama don’t deserve the help of fellow females? If the Republicans nominated a woman would Ms. Albright instantly switch parties out of sheer sisterhood? Of course not. (And this wearisome tripe from someone who was once our secretary of state . . .)

Read the whole thing.

On a related note, NRO’s Rich Lowry has an analysis of Mike Huckabee’s campaign and explains why he believes it will, in the end, crash, due to “the limits of his own Christian identity politics.”

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