The Problem With Identity Politics in Elections

With the 2020 presidential primary race quickly approaching, there is a potential new candidate every day. Currently, this is the most diverse race the U.S. has ever seen. Women everywhere are discussing their favorite president-to-be, whether it's Tulsi Gabbard  (D-HA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris  (D-CA) or Kristen Gillibrand  (D-NY).  All of these powerful, inspiring women are making history, but it is crucial for us girls to be smart about who we support. With the U.S.'s not-so-pretty past of holding powerful women down in the political and professional realm, it's easy to get caught up with the excitement of the possibility for a female to lead our powerhouse of a country. These "identity politics," the idea that you should or shouldn't support politicians based on their demographics, have been used against us women for centuries, and especially us women of different races. However, they should not be used as a method for choosing whom we align forces with. We should not be aligning our support based on how a politician looks, or their reputation in the media. Instead, the only logical way to figure out whom to support is to read about the issues and where each candidate stands on issues that are important to you. With the ever-growing power of both establishment and fringe political news outlets, it can feel like you're being pulled in every direction. Fear not, for this is my candidate-by-candidate breakdown of the major female candidates who’ve declared as of February 10, 2019. I will be briefly describing each candidate's background along with their stances on issues that will mostly affect college-age women.

Firstly, Tulsi Gabbard is the Democratic senator from Hawaii who takes strong left stances on many social and economic issues. She is a minority, and a veteran, which gives her unique as well as important insight on many military-related matters. She supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, universal healthcare and making community college tuition-free. Gabbard is staunchly pro-choice and wants to remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list and is also known for being a strong believer in sustainability and preserving our world through the elimination of fossil fuel use and other harmful practices. Now, for the not so pretty past. Gabbard used to be a supporter of "traditional marriage," which means that she was against homosexuality and especially homosexuals having the right to be wed. She was vocally and actively against LGBT rights throughout her past, going as far as to promote conversion therapy. Now, she did flip her stance and apologize for these beliefs in 2012, but it is important to remember politicians’ past and be aware of their history. All in all, Gabbard seems like a good person to support, but there are suspicious parts of her past that should not be ignored.  

Second is Elizabeth Warren,  a senator from Massachusetts. She has a long history of impressive past legislative victories, so we know she has experience in getting what she wants on the Senate floor. Warren aligns greatly with Gabbard when it comes to issues such as abortion, healthcare, and tuition cost. One important difference is that she opposed defining "traditional marriage". This means she is more open-minded to who can get married. The Sierra Club, an environmental organization that focuses on bringing awareness to climate change and other important environment-related matters, also endorses her. In 2012, she stated she believed that the legalization of marijuana would reduce opioid addiction rates, but she doesn't support the outright legalization of marijuana. There was recent controversy surrounding Warren’s ethnicity. She identified as Native American despite only being a fraction of this lineage but predominantly Caucasian. Warren has since issued a formal apology for “furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship…” She staunchly opposes keeping god in the public sphere and an absolute right to gun ownership. Since Warren has been known to be a powerhouse for left-leaning agendas in the past, I would say she's a safe bet to support those beliefs as president.

Next, we have Kamala Harris, who is a senator from California. Harris quickly became a favorite in the black community with her promises for more equity in future policies involving criminal justice. Harris' announcement of her running was so popular that she tied with Senator Bernie Sanders for the most money risen the day after an announcement. Harris supports legal and safe abortions as well as the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. She is staunch on gun reform and, like the other candidates, supports universal healthcare. She also has argued for LGBT rights in the past. At the end of the day, there isn't as much data to be found on Harris' viewpoints on issues like free college and minimum wage. Harris still doesn't have a platform on her website almost a month after declaring. This could mean either she hasn't prepared statements on the subjects or she doesn't want us to know where she stands. To me, it is important for a candidate to be loud and proud about their opinion on all hot-button issues, so her quietness is something to take into consideration.

Finally, there is Kristen Gillibrand, a senator from New York. Gillibrand is known to be a centrist Democrat. If you feel that the country has swayed too far right and would rather see it return to a business-as-usual state, she is your girl. She is conservative economically but liberal socially. Gillibrand believes in gun control, but she previously was in favor of gun rights. She is a proud feminist and believes it's a women's right to choose what happens with her body. Gillibrand also supports Medicare for all and LGBT rights. Overall, she has the most centrist past of the other candidates, but it seems as though she's been growing into more of a liberal in the past few years.  

The best thing you can do to prepare yourself for this wild ride we call a presidential primary is to educate yourself on the facts, and not on the fluff stories broadcasted by mainstream media outlets. A candidate can have a terrible reputation with the media but have an amazing policy that could directly benefit your daily life. Or they could look like the person you should support but vote for legislation that directly harms you or the ones you love. All I ask of you wonderful women is that you don't let someone's identity sway your vote, and don't let the mainstream media outlets turn you off from paying attention to this race, because I have a feeling it's going to be a good one.