Identify politics - US in Perspective

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Sat, 27 Feb 2021 Source: Abdul-Razak Lukman

In the modern political jurisprudence, identity politics is taking a centre stage in the political lives of people especially in the United States of America and other majority and fixed religious-based countries. It is no doubt, that religious fanaticism played heavily in both the 2016 and 2020 US elections. When the political game tilts to the low, politicians and parties would do anything to keep them in the race. It doesn’t matter the consequences of their actions provided it will bring them political power. We have seen, explicitly, religion playing a part in the 2020 US elections. We have seen religion being a focus to the detriment of social, economic and legal imbalances in our societies. We have seen, not once, twice; but an uncountable number of violations using religion as a cake to blindfold the citizenry into accepting perceptions as facts— on the grounds of faith and not on law, logic and values.

It is clear that the explicit politics of the Democrats is a coalition of various groups based on universal rights, whereas the “identity politics of the Republicans is now a strategy of white nationalism, whereby the other groups become scapegoats.

The Democratic Party has a strong view for reinforcing the rights of all irrespective of how minority such a group could be. For this reason, the issue of abortion and supporting the rights and liberties of the LGBT communities are paramount to liberal society which wants freedom for all. This policy direction, among many, is the subject of controversy between the two major political parties in US. The Republican Party candidates generally oppose abortion. This stance is referred to as Pro-Life. The Democrats support a woman's right to choose whether she gets an abortion or not. This stance is called Pro-Choice.

The two main parties have a stand relative to religion and how each uses same to advance its course of power. As to whether others are using it extremely or moderately in furtherance of peace and development, your guess could be as good as mine. As Kant would always emphasis, politics is about strategy to persuade the minds of people to do what you stand for. So, it was a strategic move by Republican Party strategists to capture the votes of Christian Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. The purpose was to counter the Democratic voting block made up of the socially liberal, mainline Protestant denominations and African-American Protestant churches that were instrumental in electing Democratic candidate Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960s. This Democratic voting block supported civil rights and government programs to help with poverty, education, and childcare.

With conspiracy theories infiltrating into religion, it stands to reason that a growing number of evangelicals have gravitated towards Trump. The view of seeing Trump as a God send to stop demonic forces plays well in the narrative of those who exploit for political gain

It is worth noting that on Sept. 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy (who is a Roman Catholic in faith) gave a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion. The controversy was about whether he would be able to carry out his duties as the law demands of him without his faith taking a toll of him. This is what Kennedy said, in parts:

Rev. Meza, Rev. Reck, I'm grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views. While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space. These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this.

So, it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in. I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all...”

So, it remains true that identity politics did not start today but the flame of today’s one is creating insurrection, separating families, neighbourhoods and spacing a racial gap instead of bridging the imbalances within societies.

It remains a debate for many political pundits who argue on political correctness and harmonious political environment to decipher how President Trump won the 2016 elections by being able to influence a huge section of the Christian Evangelical community. To many political pundits, they (evangelicals) voted on faith of the Republican party being associated with the Church and not the values. Others went ahead to question the rate at which Trump won in those religious areas. He garnered 80-81% of white evangelicals who turned out on Election Day 2016. His ability to curry favour with white evangelicals baffled pundits and political analysts, many of whom expressed confusion that so-called “values voters” would back a candidate who stumbled over Bible verses, frequently use hate language on women and was caught bragging about sexual assault. This was a disgrace to the evangelical community especially its leader, Russell Moore.

For me, it was not surprising to see President Trump losing to Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential elections. A scanning through the internet shows many Republicans saying that they Thank God For President Trump, and many say they believe God sent him. Obviously, the religious people who believe in Trump must believe that God is divinely concerned with the stock market, keeping immigrants out of the country and many more! That is how identity politics can ruin our political environment.

I am recording on the various digital platforms to have argued that President Trump would lose the 2020 elections. There were people who emotionally disagreed with me accompanied with insults. However, there wasn’t any way I could convince them to understand my angle of argument. I catalogued a lot of my arguments in my previous write-ups and advised that Trump still has a chance of renewing his faith in the hearts of electorates if he was able to handle the COVID-19 pandemic well. He rather misfired and threw everything into disarray. The only hope for Mr Trump was to be religiously-partial. Unfortunately for him, the COVID-19 bruises technically knocked his identity politics away from the mainstream media. Mr Trump lost! However, he succeeded in using religion as political fuel for four years.

It is worthy of note that many Democrats are personally against such things as gay marriage and abortion, for example, but set those views aside because they believe the law of the land allows them. Just like how most politicians pander to their religious constituents even if they are being insincere and don’t believe any of it.

Columnist: Abdul-Razak Lukman