When Mary Katharine Ham and I speak publicly about our book, End of Discussion, we often spend a fair amount of time lingering on the subject of the Left's weaponization of identity politics. Leftists very frequently seek to disqualify opposing viewpoints by claiming that those with different ideas are motivated by prejudice or bigotry, citing a parade of "-isms" as a substitute for substantive debate. This has become such a standard form of discourse, we've argued, that when internal disagreements arise, many people apply the same demagogic tactics on their fellow partisans, having effectively forgotten how to argue in good faith or on the merits.
An example we've employed in the past is the minor tempest that was stirred when the left flank of the Democratic Party opposed a trade deal that was favored by President Obama. In advancing his position, Obama referred to one of his critics on this issue -- Senator Elizabeth Warren (who has other identity issues of her own making) -- as "Liz" in an interview. This touched off criticism within the party among some who charged that Obama's use of a nickname was dismissive and therefore sexist. Others, offended that Obama was being given the Republican treatment on that front, wondered whether lobbing false claims of sexism at the first black president might have some problematic racial undertones. Welcome to the Woke Whirlwind, Democrats.
Joe Biden has now been victimized by this same toxic environment, in which his (popular) 1970's stance on mandatory school busing has been turned into a cudgel to portray him as racially insensitive...by a woman of color who turns out to basically, um, share his policy position on the issue. The point of the attack wasn't the policy; it was the identity politics. And it was unleashed minutes after the aggressor asserted, to applause, that the audience wasn't interested in witnessing a nasty "food fight." She then promptly flung fist-full of mashed potatoes at Biden, and fundraised off of it by selling t-shirts celebrating that premeditated moment. Now we have the latest iteration of the revolution turning inward, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez furiously responding to pointed criticisms of her tactics and behavior from the Democratic Speaker of the House by rushing down the well-trod path to the identity politics well:
. @AOC gets tough on Pelosi:— Yashar Ali ?? (@yashar) July 11, 2019
"The persistent singling out . . . it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful . . . the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”https://t.co/VRCti8vWT4
She later clarified that she "absolutely" does not consider Pelosi a racist, of course -- just as Kamala Harris so generously said about Biden, despite implying the opposite. AOC is just asking questions, you see, and again suggesting that sharp criticism of her squad is literally dangerous ("incitement," perhaps?), another familiar silencing tactic:
...knowing the amount of death threats we get, knowing the amount of concentration of attention, I think it’s worth asking why.”— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 11, 2019
Consider it a warning shot, old, white, Democrats. If a political skirmish breaks out, identity will be gratuitously raised and used as a weapon. You'd best understand and fear the hierarchy. Ah, but both wings of the party can play that game:
including two black men who actually experienced the segregated South.” 2/2— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) July 11, 2019
Those points were reportedly disseminated in a mass internal email among Democrats. It's true that AOC's chief of staff -- last seen wearing a shirt bearing the visage of a literal Nazi collaborator -- has indeed done precisely that. I expect that fact has been tucked away in the grievance file by his intra-party critics for the next time he or his boss are defending the Squad's anti-Semitism. These are the rules you've created, liberals. Enjoy.
UPDATE - Can't stop, won't stop. It's all they know how to do:
Re the latest racial strife among House Democrats, recall that in April Rep. Omar said that "many" Democrats "cannot stand that a refugee, a black woman, an immigrant, a Muslim shows up in Congress thinking she’s equal to them.” https://t.co/eetxKEreMO— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) July 11, 2019