Kellyanne Conway, a former aide to President Donald Trump, wrote in New York Times The op-ed urged him to appoint a black person as vice president – but NoFor reasons of “identity politics”, she insists. This raises a fascinating philosophical question: what does Conway actually mean by “identity politics” in this context?
Conway’s op-ed explains the various candidates for office and the principles behind selecting them. It prominently cites his credentials as helping elect Trump’s eventual Vice President Mike Pence. (Conway conveniently avoided mentioning the reason the situation reopened—namely, Pence’s reluctance to participate in Trump’s coup attempt and Trump’s subsequent refusal to immediately dismiss the idea.) that their disloyalty should be punished through summary execution at the hands of right-wing paramilitary forces.)
Conway explains that the key thing is to avoid identity politics. Here’s how she defines it:
The most popular suggestion I’m hearing is that Mr. Trump do what Mr. Biden did four years ago and “pick a woman” as his running mate. But Mr Biden – and the country – suffer the consequences of embracing identity politics every day.
As opposed to electing a woman, which is identity politics and therefore bad, Conway proposed Trump “elects a person of color”, which is not identity politics:
With all this in mind, if I were advising Mr. Trump, I would suggest that he consider a candidate as his running mate, subject to examining all possibilities and satisfying procedural issues such as dual residency in Florida. Choose the person of color. Not for identity politics like the Democrats, but to equally help lead an America First movement that includes more union workers, independents, first-time voters, veterans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and African Americans.
I’ve examined both of these pieces in an attempt to understand the difference between bad “identity politics” and the good, completely different option of electing someone to have a certain identity for political reasons. The first is “pick a woman” (which Conway puts in quotation marks). The second is “Elect a person of color.”
What is the difference that appointing a woman is identity politics, but appointing a black person is not? It seems impossible. If you believe that qualification should not compromise your selection criteria, then limiting the candidate pool to about one-third (or perhaps a little more) qualified candidates who are not white, limit yourself to a little more. There is a greater compromise than doing. More than half the population is female.
A Republican might say that their version of using a person’s identity for politics is different from identity politics because they are not appealing to voters based on identity. The problem is that Conway specifically argues that the benefit of a non-white vice-presidential candidate would be to get more non-white people to vote: “Like women voters in 2016, Mr. Trump would need to win a minority majority. “There is no need for voters to elect the President to marginalize Mr. Biden.”
So is the only difference that “electing” a candidate on the basis of identity is identity politics, but not “electing” a person on that basis?
Ever since elections have been held, political parties have been selecting candidates on the basis of identity. Voters do not always pay attention to candidates’ qualifications or issue positions and often use their identities as inferences. It was a long-standing practice for presidential tickets to select the Vice President on the basis of regional balance. John F. Kennedy, whom Republicans generally regard as the last good Democratic president, energized Catholic voters who supported him for this cause. When categories of identity beyond North/South or Catholic/Protestant began to open up, conservatives began calling it “identity politics” before finally deciding to play the game.
Yet they still can’t admit that they are doing it. Hence strange Jesuitical practices like Conway’s esoteric distinction between good and bad ways of choosing a candidate of a certain identity.
At one point in the op-ed, she mysteriously writes, “The ‘pick a woman’ theory also runs counter to the fact that politics is not about biology, or even chemistry, but It’s about math and science.”
What does this even mean? How is it that biology and chemistry are part of science, not politics? Is, When biology and chemistry both are part of science? I promise the context doesn’t make it clear at all. Perhaps Conway believes the answer lies in metaphysics? theology?