“I understand the impulse, but identity politics are a great way to lose elections,” he said on Saturday. “We need to bring people together.”
Many Democrats have decried the impacts of President Trump’s policies on minorities and women during his first term in office. In addition, the “identity politics” debate has progressed as former Vice President Joe Biden announced this past week he no longer could support the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which restricts federal funding for most abortions. Many other Democrats running to unseat Trump in 2020 have come out against the amendment.
Politicians such as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, another 2020 candidate, have highlighted “privilege” enjoyed by straight, white men over other segments of the population. O’Rourke, in particular, lamented his display of “privilege” after he appeared on a Vanity Fair cover earlier in the year when he jumped into the White House race. He also released an education plan specifically geared toward helping “black and brown students.”
Both O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tied voter suppression to race and pushed the claim that Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams unfairly lost her gubernatorial bid in 2018.
Abrams, in May, pushed back on the idea that identity politics harmed the party’s electoral prospects. “I would argue that identity politics is exactly who we are, and it’s exactly how we won,” she said.
She added that the notion of identity politics was a “dog whistle” and that voters didn’t trust politicians as much without it. “The notion of identity politics has been peddled for the last 10 years, and it’s been used as a dog whistle to say that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to the new voices coming into progress,” she told an audience in Washington, D.C.
Harris also defended identity politics at the end of 2018, arguing that people used the term as a “pejorative” to “divide” and “distract.” She added that she wouldn’t “shut up” about issues associated with identity politics.
However, Yang wasn’t the only Democrat to complain about the party’s focus on identity politics. Matt Flynn, a Democrat running for governor in Wisconsin, described the party as “pickled in identity politics and victimology.”
“When I was at the convention recently, in Oshkosh, there were multiple caucuses of, there were all these subgroups, and there is no assimilation of the party anymore,” Flynn also said.
The party has also faced criticism for claiming the mantle of identity politics while its two frontrunners — Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — were white men.
According to RealClearPolitics’ polling average, both Sanders and Biden held substantial margins over the rest of the field. Yang took about 0.8 percent of support, ahead of candidates including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.