Books and Politics

Identity Politics, not Party Affiliation, Should Determine Your Vote

Embrace your values, not political parties, to ensure a change.

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Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

I have been reading Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams. She points out many things to which I was blind. I must admit, I thought things were fairer than they are, but Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and the protests prove otherwise.

We need to be very aware of voter suppression and how it affects our ability to have our voices heard. This book should be a must-read for every politician or aspiring candidate. I highly recommend that everyone read it for themselves.

I won’t discuss voter suppression here, as she does it much better than I could. Now that she has made me aware of it, I can see where suppression exists, and when it has happened to me.

What I will discuss is why we must vote based on our identities instead of along party lines. Stacey Abrams calls this Identity Politics. It is important and will allow voters to affect change in our country.

What is Identity Politics?

Broadly speaking, identity politics describes when people, rather than using traditional categories like political parties, give priority to their racial, gender, sexual orientation, social, cultural, economic, or other identity affiliation when approaching political decision making.

— Stacey Abrams, Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose and the Fight for a Fair America

What this means is that we use our own identities and values to select what we support and don’t support in the political arena. We align our voting to our individual values rather than political parties.

For example, I am a retired teacher who values education and learning. I taught in Title I schools for most of my career and understand how poverty affects learning.

I am a woman who values equality between the genders, and the welfare of women.

I am a wife and mother who values families and the well-being of children.

I am squarely in the middle-class and feel I pay more than my fair share of taxes.

I am getting older and recently retired. I have always valued the wisdom of my ancestors and don’t want to become disposable just because I am aging.

These are pieces of my identity that I embrace. These are values I cannot ignore. They must influence the choices I make in the voting booth.

How does the party system fail us?

According to the latest campaign ads, if we vote one way, we will have a bigger government, higher taxes, and big “giveaways”. If we vote the other way, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and we lose our healthcare. Aren’t the issues bigger than the negative rhetoric one party throws at the other?

When Donald J. Trump campaigned four years ago, he talked about making America great again. It was a great slogan. Many people felt left out and voiceless. He promised to get rid of Obamacare and cronyism in Washington.

This was appealing to many. We have so many career politicians who seem to care more about the lobbyist than about their constituents. The Affordable Care Act had raised insurance premiums for many people, including me. I know single moms who are self-employed and can’t afford to insure their families but don’t qualify for a stipend or Medicaid.

As a result, many people voted for Republicans and the Republican party. When Trump was elected, voters had hopes that the financial burden on middle-class Americans would be alleviated. He said he would repeal The Affordable Healthcare Act, increase employment, and lower taxes.

And he did, sort of.

He eliminated the penalty for not having healthcare insurance, more people did find jobs (was he really responsible?), and lowered taxes for the rich and large corporations.

However, he failed to make changes that helped me, and people like me: middle-class Americans, women, mothers, teachers, older Americans, and cronyism hasn’t gone away.

My taxes are higher than four years ago, despite making less money due to retiring. My insurance premiums go up every year, and the health insurance company pays less, choosing what it will and won’t cover.

Voters were promised a change when President Obama was elected, too. Before ‘The Donald’ took office, I also struggled with the changes the Obama administration brought about.

The Affordable Healthcare Act benefited millions of Americans who had never had insurance before. This was a necessary change. However, many middle-class Americans had to drop their coverage because premiums increased too much. My healthcare costs increased by 200%, at least.

Insurance companies controlled my care instead of me and my doctor. My health insurance company began to tell me that certain medications would no longer be covered. I was forced to pay out of pocket because what they would cover put me in cardiac ICU and nearly killed me. We had to pay $600 a month for my husband’s insulin, and that is with insurance.

The school I taught in had funding decreased each year, forcing a reduction in teachers, an increase in class sizes, and the elimination of much-needed resources. My middle school students could not get pencils and paper for the classroom unless I bought them myself.

I watched the news as protests (in the form of riots) destroyed some communities and businesses. My annual tax bill increased each year, and I brought home less and less of my hard-earned income.

So what really changed?

Both parties failed in different ways. Neither party helped middle-class Americans who have always been the backbone of our country. The Party System seems to increase the division in our country. You’re either on the left or the right. You’re either progressive or conservative. The changes each party promises never seem to happen.

Stacey Abrams says that we should abolish the party system in favor of Identity Politics.

How can Identity Politics affect change?

When I go to the polling places this fall, I will look at my values to determine how I will vote. I will not vote along straight party lines, where you are either voting for liberalism or conservatism, whatever that really means.

I will admit that my identity has often aligned with conservative thinking, but not always. Instead, I think of myself as a moderate humanist, someone down the middle, not on the left or right, who tries to promote human rights, doing the right thing, understanding, and consensus.

Now, I want to choose a candidate who has a plan for improving education, especially for those who live in poverty, the homeless, and immigrants. I want to choose a candidate who doesn’t push to allow more affluent families to use vouchers provided by the state to pay for their private school tuition and robs public schools of already diminished funding.

I want to choose a candidate who will improve our nation’s healthcare and make it more affordable for everyone. I want a candidate to enact true reform that protects patient rights, putting the control back into the patient’s (and their doctor’s) hands. I want them to find a way to reduce drug prices.

I want to choose a candidate who fights for the rights of all, including women, children, people of color, and the poor. I want a candidate who develops a plan to make everyone in our country feel safe, including Blacks, Hispanics, and LGBTQ people.

I want to choose a candidate who values the contributions of older Americans and will protect their rights.

When we all examine our identities and our values, we can look at the candidates and think deeply about how their attitudes and proposed policies reflect the direction we believe our country should head. We will not be duped by the accusatory, unsubstantiated propaganda pushed out by the super PACs (Political Action Committees).

In this way, I believe we can force candidates to change direction and become more civic-minded. They will learn that they won’t stay in office if they are going against what their constituency wants or needs.

Our elected officials are supposed to be here to serve We, The People (that’s you and me) instead of the PACs and lobbyists. Without PACs, lobbyists, and even the political parties controlling the politicians, they will be able to truly consider what is best for the country as a whole. They will be more willing to reach across the aisle to work together for positive change.

It's time to vote for your values.

When you hear a campaign ad, evaluate what it is really saying. Have you heard any evidence to support the multiple claims put forth? If you listen closely, there is no evidence at all presented. Using that to guide your voting leaves you vulnerable to misinformation.

Before you head to the polls, do a little research about your choices. In Texas, you can go online and get a sample ballot for your own county. I’m sure you can do that where you are, too. You can also go to Vote411 by the League of Women Voters to find out about your candidates and their positions.

Look up the candidates. What are their attitudes toward critical issues? What policies and plans are they proposing? If they are an incumbent, how have their policy actions aligned with your values?

Do your homework and make an informed choice. Then vote only for those who you believe will truly represent you, not just lobbyists, super PACs, or political parties.

We, The People, can bring about the change we need.

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Living Simply and Simply Living, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft.

Pat is a certified ELA, speech, and drama teacher. She enjoys writing, reading, baking, gardening, and crafting. Top writer in Food and Cooking.

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