Identity Politics

Identity, another word in politics that means something different than what you think it means. Painter and Jeffrey, in Chapter 6, define identity as it applies to politics, which are the categories that voters fit into, such as age, gender, and ethnicity, to name just a few. Following this, the idea of identity politics, or campaigning with a certain type of identity in mind, is discussed through social movements, the acts of a group of people focused towards one particular idea regarding social change. Two types of social movements are established, as well, the subjective movement and the objective movement. The subjective social movement focuses on the experiences of a particular group, getting more people to join, but ultimately having a hazy goal, while the objective social movement has a very clear goal, but will likely accomplish the bare minimum and gain few followers. In combination, though, they produce a viable social movement, one that not only has a set goal, but can gain enough followers to attain that goal. These social movements often gather people of a certain identity, though, linking them with the core idea of identity politics, that people are part of multiple groups and that these groups enact social change. Lastly, the book elaborates upon the geographies of social movements regarding three specific movements: The labor movement, feminism and women’s rights, and social movements as DIY Politics. These become geographic when their scale, place, and space are considered, for example, if a social movement for the labor party were to take place in a purely high class society, nothing would happen, as the movement is taking place in the wrong space.

The article equally talks about identity politics, using Barack Obama’s 2008 political campaign as the core example. The term identities is defined similarly, and even broken down into smaller groups, giving insight into their general ideas as a whole. The main identity used in the article is that of “unhyphenated Americans”, or those who trace their ancestry not through genealogy, but prefer to leave it at American, such that, when asked questions like “Where are you from? or What is your race?”, they would reply with America and American, respectively. Explaining who they are, though, is another story. This particular identity is most likely to belong to a fairly specific set of people, those who fit the criteria of being white, mostly rural, likely Evangelical Christian, mostly not college-educated, and perhaps most importantly, living within the Deep South. These come into play when compared to Obama, who is none of these things, thus guaranteeing that it would be tough to win their votes. As a social movement though, Obama’s campaign exemplified identity politics, showing higher votes among certain identities, such as those with the identity “professional degree holders”, while having less votes from those under the identity “county income of less than 10k”. These are examples of both subjective and objective social movements, too, as they are based on particular experiences, such as having gone to college and having received a degree, while also having a particular goal in mind for a movement, that being, of course, the election of Barack Obama.

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