Democratic Congresswoman: Identity Politics Hijacked My Party

Posted: Jun 22, 2017 2:45 PM

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is reportedly feeling a bit alone within her party. She was one of the few Democrats who were not sold on Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 election. In fact, she felt that Donald Trump would win. Representing district, where trade and jobs were key, where Hillary Clintons campaign more or less neglected, and where Donald Trump’s message of making American great again resonated—Dingell saw the writing on the wall if the Democrats didn’t change course. They didn’t. Trump won and now she sees her party as one that’s been hijacked by poisonous identity politics. It’s something that she feels will continue to be the cause for Democratic defeats in elections until there’s a purging of this sort of tribal politics.

Here’s is how she felt about her position in the party, speaking to The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart:

The Democratic Party’s in disarray,” Dingell told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “I don’t know where I belong. I’ve said that. I sometimes feel like I have no home even in the Democratic Caucus here.” She went on to say, “We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand where their fear is coming from.” Dingell also added this: “We took people for granted. We, for a long time, thought we had that worker, men and women, that union worker. We’ve lost them because we stopped talking to them.”

During an interview with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin she said we have all these caucus for specific ethnic and racial groups, adding that we’ve lost that sense of “we” thanks to identity politics.

“Our strength comes in community, and that community of us. And sometimes I don’t feel like I belong in any of the little different caucuses, but I am proud Democrat who was sent here to represent the working men and women of my district,” she said.

Melvin asked if she was going to switch parties, given her isolation from the rank-and-file of her party to which she said she isn’t going to make news; she’s a proud Democrat and will remain so. He also asked if she felt identity politics have hijacked her party. Dingell said she was worried about this trend, noting that if it continues—her party will keep losing elections.

“I am very concerned that that is what’s happening, and that we are forgetting that our strength comes in being ‘we,’ all of us coming together. And if we don’t figure out how we become ‘we’ again, we’re going to keep losing,” she said.

In Capehart’s column, Dingell also stressed, “We’ve got to stop demonizing each other…we’ve got to figure out a way to tone down the rhetoric, that we have to stop this demonization of each other,” she said. “We have to find a way to respect each other, to listen to each other.”

If I lived in Rep. Dingell’s district, she wouldn’t get my vote, but she would get my attention. We don’t agree. I’m admittedly a partisan Republican—always will be—but we can have our views and still have discussions without throwing punches. And that’s the point Democrats seem to be missing. You get a Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Rep. Dingell, or any Rust Belt Democrat (what’s left of them) and elevate them—they could lead the Democratic Party out of the wilderness. These remaining Democrats now their constituents and know how to better guide the differing interests between the working class and the educated elite that dots the urban areas. Most importantly, they know that the Democratic Party needs a job-creating economic message that isn’t tethered to anti-free speech hysteria, transgender bathrooms, trigger warnings, lectures about so-called white privilege, or other aspects of the noxious ad authoritarian ethos of political correctness. Some of which I think is responsible for the intense political rhetoric we’re witnessing. The problem is that the D.C. elites still run the show, and they don’t see any value in reaching white working class voters. They may see they do on television, but if they were serious, we would be seeing those dividends pay off in wining special elections. That hasn’t been the case.