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Luis BARRUETO is a journalist from Guatemala. Studied business and finance journalism at Aarhus University in Denmark and City University London.
"Identity politics" is a label often used in a reductive fashion, especially over the past few years in which political demands made by historically marginalized groups have both been made more loudly, and as key groups seek to diminish their legitimacy.
This narrow message fails to capture the idea behind Identity Crisis, a new book analyzing the 2016 US election, written by political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck. They present and discuss some of their key findings in this podcast conversation.
Especially important is their conclusion that white voters' anxieties – financial and job concerns, for example – stem from their cultural and racial resentments. "Instead of a pure economic anxiety, what mattered was racialized economics”, they explain in the book. This adds to the basic narrative in the election post-mortem that coastal elites had failed to account for those left behind in parts of rural America.
America's Identity Crisis
In their conversation, the authors delve into the way in which "identity" has become activated over the past few years in American politics, not least with Barack Obama's presidency and with Donald Trump's fiery rhetoric.
But it goes beyond news headlines: The message of the book is that the United States is going through a process of transformation in which white America's power is diminishing, there is a rise in foreign-born residents living in the country, and the culture is changing altogether, making for a more diverse country.
This sets the identity debates at the front and center of the political discussion, and the droves of data that the authors went through are certainly necessary to understand the current moment.