Resist identity politics this election

I had a good laugh one day when I overheard a conversation between two good friends.  One poked fun at the other for being Mormon. “You're voting for Romney, right?  ‘Cause he's Mormon like you.”

The Mormon, offended by that overgeneralization shot back.  "You voted for Bush, right? ‘Cause he's Methodist — like you.”  This annoyed the Methodist greatly because he was very liberal. He suddenly disapproved of this overly simplistic association. That's one of America’s current political problems in a nutshell: identity politics.

Many voters wrongly assume that members of certain backgrounds vote a certain way to preserve publicly perceived self-interests. When that happens, identities are reduced to a few cliff notes versions of race, religion, gender and so on. Votes are complex because people are complex.

I saw a recent example of identity politics at its worst when star of the 1995 movie “Clueless” Stacey Dash publicly endorsed Mitt Romney on Twitter.  Dash made this choice despite being a Democrat of African-American descent. The backlash she received was extraordinary.  Dash received a litany of racial epithets. @TRULYMIYA and @Gskee both told Dash to “kill” herself, according to LAWeekly blog.

The anger of the public came from the expectation that she’d vote for President Barack Obama because they share a similar ethnic heritage. By asking Dash to vote for Obama purely on grounds of race, they send the message that skin color should trump principles.

Dash begged to differ.

”I chose him not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character,” Dash told Piers Morgan in a CNN interview.

Assuming that one will vote for a candidate because of skin color is just as racist as voting against someone for skin color. But alas, that way of thinking continues to divide Americans.

Nevada Senator Harry Reid is a good example of breaking that sociological trend.  Despite being a Mormon like Romney, Reid still intends to vote against him both in the voting booth and in the Senate. He is clearly voting on principle rather than social identity.

Now after this discussion about principles mattering more than demographics, I guess I should lay out which principles matter the most to me.  I make of point of not telling people who to vote for.  I am a registered Independent whose goal is not to get candidates elected but to put an end to vitriolic partisanship.

I will be voting for whomever is the most honest even if that honesty cost them political points. I will be voting for someone who will work harder to unite America and close the bitter divide of the past decade. I will vote for whoever refuses to instill fear in Americans and pit them against one another for votes.

I will be graduating in a year. I will be voting for whoever has the soundest plan to strengthen the economy so that I can get a better job with my new degree.  I will vote for the ticket that has a better record of passing bi-partisan budgets. Those are my principles.

While I don't believe race, religion or sexual orientation should be checked at the door, they should certainly be secondary to core principles like the ones I’ve mentioned.

Find out what yours are and vote on them tomorrow.


Reach the columnist at or follow him at @coltongavin.


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