Suzanne Fields

A friend dropped by for a cup of coffee the other day after a visit to her mother at Leisure World of Maryland, where the wealthy live in leisurely retirement. "Hillary has the Bubbie Brigade behind her," she said, shaking her head in wonder. Nobody knows this better than Bill Clinton, who went to tea with the Leisure World ladies a day or two before the Potomac primaries. Older women are not necessarily Bill's cup of tea, but the ladies -- many of them "senior feminists" -- were thrilled. They want to see a woman in the White House before they die.

Nice thoughts, but identity politics are rarely so benign as these ladies suggest. This election campaign is largely driven by personality, and identity politics cover a multitude of sinners tempted to indulge groupthink at the expense of independent thinking. Enhancing individual rights collectively can backfire, leading to a descent into prejudice. That's the price of multipurpose, multicultural plotting.

Hillary, for a good example, has been counting on the loyalty of Hispanic voters. But when she replaced Patti Solis Doyle, her national campaign manager and the most prominent Latina in her campaign, with Maggie Williams, a loyalist without Latina credentials, many Hispanics perceived it as disloyalty to them. Ms. Solis Doyle, the sixth child of Mexican immigrants, had been with Hillary since 1991. The disappointment was especially bitter after Hillary won California with a late Hispanic surge.

Steven Ybarra, a California superdelegate who heads the voting rights committee of the Hispanic caucus of the Democratic National Committee, sent a fiery e-mail to Latino voters, demonstrating that like Latin lovers, Latino voters do not cotton to being jilted. "Apparently, loyalty is not a two-way street," he wrote. "Latino superdelegates like myself ... will have cause to pause."

Patti Solis Doyle will remain as an "adviser," but she obviously does not expect to do much advising. She says she looks forward to spending more time with her kids. Only a year ago, she was described as Hillary's "single most important political adviser." Dumping Ms. Solis Doyle comes just as the campaign moves to Texas, where Hispanics make up a third of the Democratic constituency. The fall-out could be lethal. Identity politics have played to the Clintons' advantage for years, but now the worm is turning. Identity politics hurt Hillary badly in South Carolina after Bill offended many black voters with his comparison of Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson. (Jesse, relegated to the sidelines, seemed happy enough to see his name in the papers again.)


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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