People who call themselves ‘conservative’ are wont to say that what they call ‘identity politics’ is bad for us politically – that is, they say that people who practice identity politics are damaging the way our democracy operates. I have not understood what they mean by ‘identity politics’ or how such behaviour causes us harm.
The term is defined in Wikipedia as follows.
Identity politics is a term that describes a political approach wherein people of a particular gender, religion, race, social background, class or other identifying factors, develop political agendas that are based upon theoretical interlocking systems of oppression that may affect their lives and come from their various identities. Contemporary applications of identity politics describe peoples of specific race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, economic class, disability status, education, religion, language, profession, political party, veteran status, and geographic location. These identity labels are not mutually exclusive but are in many cases compounded into one when describing hyper-specific groups, a concept known as intersectionality. An example is that of African-American, homosexual, demi-boys with Body integrity dysphoria, who constitute a particular hyper-specific identity class.
There appear to be three characteristics: (1) shared political beliefs; (2) a shared sense of grievance that members of this group are unfairly treated or of aspiration that they may be better treated; and (3) something other than their shared political belief that sets them apart – such as race, age, sex, faith or sexuality. The sense of grievance – point (2) –is what drives those of a shared belief – point (1) – to become politically active. But those two factors are indistinguishable from what drives the members of the two parties that are the foundation of our parliamentary democracy. They also underlie trade unions and feminist groups – or our system of class actions. You might turn your nose up at that, but more than twenty years ago, a lecturer at Harvard said these accounted for most of the progress in civil rights in the past half century. So, people with just the first two characteristics are not just harmless, but essential parts of our body politic. And that is before you even get to career ideologues – like the IPA or the devout relics of the DLP on The Australian.
That raises two questions: How does this kind action become bad just because the members of the group have something in common apart from their shared belief? And, who says so?