In case equality-minded people aren't annoyed enough with the media reducing the Obama and Clinton campaigns down to race and gender, David Brooks has to take it one step further and declare himself a the victor in the war between women and Blacks:
The problem is that both the feminist movement Clinton rides and the civil rights rhetoric Obama uses were constructed at a time when the enemy was the reactionary white male establishment. Today, they are not facing the white male establishment. They are facing each other.
One can only hope that Brooks is self-conscious enough to realize that he's one of America's most famous and established "reactionary white male"s and that his statement about how various movements have turned against each other instead of him and his friends should be read more as hope on his part, not any real assessment of race and gender politics.
I'll agree that there has been some abuse of the language of gender and race politics coming from the Clinton and Obama camps to try to out-liberal one another without actually supporting more liberal policy (triumph of rhetoric over substance in American politics, anyone?), but to say that the movements are at each other's throats (not presidential campaigns that can be expected to make such statements), betrays a rather shallow understanding of both feminism and civil rights movements and their histories.
In fact, it's apparent from the descriptions of identity politics that are oozing derision that he doesn't have much of an appreciation for it:
But the entire theory of identity politics was that we are not mere individuals. We carry the perspectives of our group consciousness. Our social roles and loyalties are defined by race and gender. It’s a black or female thing. You wouldn’t understand.
But then feels completely comfortable falling back on it when he wants to push conservative commentators:
All the habits of verbal thuggery that have long been used against critics of affirmative action, like Ward Connerly and Thomas Sowell, and critics of the radical feminism, like Christina Hoff Summers, are now being turned inward by the Democratic front-runners.
Christina Hoff Summers should be seen as a serious "critic of radical feminism", even though she can't construct an argument without fudging research, lying, or contradicting herself, because, I guess, she's a woman? I notice that Brooks picked two "critics of affirmative action" who are Black... just what is he trying to say?
I think it's somewhere along the lines of "I'll pick the Black people and women who should be listened to on subjects of race and gender, call people 'thugs' for not listening to them, and then decry the lack of civil discourse when it comes to people actually trying to promote equality talking about race and gender."
I can't think of a better example of regulating the subaltern voice. Soon we'll be hearing how Ted Haggard speaks for the "gay community."
There isn't anything wrong with these candidates discussing their race and gender and how it informs their politics, just as it isn't wrong on face for candidates to talk about how their religion informs their politics, or for white male candidates not to talk about race and gender and how it informs their politics. Part of the male and white experiences in America, especially in positions of power, is assuming that one's experiences along the lines of race and gender are universal, and therefore not worthy of being talked about.
John McCain, etc., not talking about being white or male is an expression of their racial and gender backgrounds just as much as Hillary talking about being a woman is or Barack talking about being Black is. And it's far more damaging because it keeps important issues out of the spotlight.
Of course, such nuances are lost on someone who finishes his column on why we should ignore identity politics with a statement like this:
Second, this dispute is going to be settled by the rising, and so far ignored, minority group. For all the current fighting, it’ll be Latinos who end up determining who gets the nomination.
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight... because everyone who isn't an Anglo white male can't be trusted to vote their politics. Instead they'll just vote for the person who looks the most like them, and when there isn't anyone who does, they become the deciding factor.
And, of course, there aren't any latina women or latino Black people (or Black women, for that matter) in Brooks's world. So much for moving past identity politics.