Society

Dingell: Democrats Too Focused On 'Identity Politics'

| by Robert Fowler
Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan speaks at a panelDemocratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan speaks at a panel

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan has voiced concern that her party's messaging has become too preoccupied with so-called "identity politics."

On June 21, Dingell offered her take on why Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff lost the election for Georgia's 6th congressional district seat.

"I wasn't surprised by what happened in Georgia yesterday ... We as a Democratic Party have got to be talking about working men and women," Dingell told MSNBC.

The Michigan lawmaker asserted that Democratic candidates were not honing their message on jobs, saying that the focus was on identity politics.

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"We've become this identity politics," Dingell said. "The Women's Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus. We've lost the sense of 'we,' that our strength comes in community."

Dingell noted that she had warned her colleagues about the threat that Trump posed to them during the 2016 election, saying that their disbelief that Trump could win was evidence that they were out of touch with swing voters.

"Nobody listened to me in the last election when I told them they weren't talking about the issues that really mattered in the Midwest ... If we don't figure out how we become 'we' again, we're going to keep losing," Dingell said.

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The Michigan lawmaker concluded: "We need to understand each of these groups have issues ... I know my power and strength is being part of a broader community where we all pull together and fight for an issue."

The phrase "identity politics" has largely been used by conservatives to critique progressive policies. Its connotations are broad and controversial among progressives, as the phrase can be read to imply that civil rights advocacy is a distraction from primary issues.

Dingell has previously described herself as an outlier in the Democratic Party. On June 20, she discussed the topic during an interview on "Cape Up," a Washington Post podcast: "The Democratic Party's in disarray. 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. We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand where their fear is coming from.”

The Michigan lawmaker concluded that both parties needed to "figure out a way to tone down the rhetoric" and "stop this demonization of each other."

While Dingell is the most prominent Democrat to attribute her party's sluggish performance to identity politics, others have called for a pivot following Ossoff's defeat.

"[Ossoff] Race better be a wake up call for Democrats -- business as usual isn't working," Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton tweeted on June 20.

Moulton added: "We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent not a smaller one. Focus on the future."

Sources: MSNBC via YouTube, Seth Moulton/Twitter, Washington Post / Photo credit: Gerald R. Ford School Of Public Policy/Flickr

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