Tom Walters: Only one label matters after campaign of divisive identity politics
“We the people…” The first official words of a newborn nation.
When they were written, “the people” had just won independence, with the declared goals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” But it’s the last of those ideas that was truly an American revolution.
The pursuit of happiness.
That’s a concept as unique to each person as a fingerprint. And where else has it ever been written that, not just life and liberty, but the personal fulfillment of the individual is a matter of national purpose?
With that in mind, it’s no wonder many Americans are feeling let down. Tomorrow, they will not make a choice as much as they will settle for one. Polls show more than 80 per cent feel disgusted, perhaps because the election itself has been disgraced by a relentless focus on the politics of identity: race; gender; religion.
And even if one candidate seems more guilty, the other is not innocent. Even appealing to people by group is a form of identity politics.
Of course, there should be political disagreement. Democracies thrive on that. But not on subdividing their citizens into groups.
A group label is just a convenience, to describe whatever part of a person one might have in common with others. It ignores everything else that makes up a complete and unique human being.
To speak of, say, the black vote as if it represents a single political interest, treats people as though race is the only measure of who they are, as if there is no difference between a Republican brain surgeon and a Democratic rock star.
That’s what’s wrong with the politics of identity. They diminish the individual. And that diminishes America. Because this country’s exceptional pledge to the individual makes another truth self-evident. That every label is fundamentally wrong.
Every label, that is, but one -- the one that includes all Americans. And calls them, simply, “we, the people.”