The Problem with Identity Politics

It doesn’t sound too bad until you realize the rules only apply to one side

The night of Monday, October 26, 2020, was one for the history books. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a party-line 52-48 vote making her the fifth woman, and the first mother of school-aged children, to serve on the highest court in the land. To boot, she was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas, who is the second African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the first to swear in a fellow associate justice.

Predictably, many self-professed feminists were not happy about Barrett joining the Court. Protestors dressed as characters from the Hulu fiction series The Handmaid’s Tale took to the streets of Arkansas. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who voted “hell no” on the new Justice’s confirmation, sent out a tweet alleging that Barrett holds “radical views,” and implying that she would undo the progress made on “women’s equality,” without supplying any evidence in either case. The Girl Scouts of the USA even deleted their social media posts congratulating Barrett (where she was pictured next to the four other women who have served on the Supreme Court), following backlash from left-wing politicians and celebrities.    

I’m not upset that the left opposes Justice Barrett because she is a Constitutional conservative, an originalist, and pro-life. People opposing a political or judicial figure because they have a different ideology is natural and expected, and the ability to do so is a Constitutional right we take for granted as Americans. The thing that frustrates me is the fact that the very same people attacking Barrett preach “gender equality,” and the increased representation of women in male-dominated professions. It’s baffling that feminists are not all celebrating Barrett’s confirmation as a huge win for the millions of working mothers in the country – especially the many who struggle to balance the often dueling interests of raising a family and pursuing a successful career path. She busted a glass ceiling, yet the left is completely ignoring it solely because she is not one of them. This is nothing short of blatant hypocrisy and an outright double standard.

On the night that Justice Barrett was confirmed, political commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted: “I can’t believe I’m not hearing about female empowerment from all of the advocates of female solidarity tonight. Hrm. So weird. Can’t imagine why.” Replies to Shapiro’s tweet clearly illustrate that many on the left are willing to sacrifice their respectable beliefs in equal rights to advance a political agenda and demean conservatives and people of faith. One user (a man) accused Barrett of believing that she is “subservient to her husband.” Last time I checked, it was Amy Barrett, not Jesse Barrett, who is now on the Supreme Court. Another man accused Justice Barrett of believing that “women should be moms and nothing else,” before making fun of the fact that she has school-age children. This guy would’ve had a point if he instead stated that Barrett believed women should be “moms, Supreme Court clerks, distinguished law professors, Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices – and nothing else.” A third user even went as far as to call Barrett a “servile handmaid,” possibly a reference to a debunked false accusation by Newsweek that a Christian worship group she was involved with was the inspiration for the aforementioned T.V. series and the Margaret Atwood novel off of which it was based.

The disgusting treatment of Justice Barrett on social media signals the sad reality about the left’s narratives of diversity, tolerance, and inclusivity – they do not apply to conservatives. As my colleague Nicole Rodden wrote in her piece “The Dem Double Standard,” it is acceptable to many people on the left to attack women and minorities who lean right. Simply put, the de facto doctrine of identity politics falls apart at the seams once we realize that it completely excludes anyone who is not a progressive.

2020 is without a doubt the high-water mark in identity politics’ road to the political mainstream. The Democratic Party is now making it their main identity – no pun intended – more so than any specific political issue. A perfect example is the party’s current Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Even the liberal Vox has admitted that Harris’s overemphasizing her identity as a minority woman during her ill-fated bid for the Democratic presidential nomination was a mistake.

I differ from many people on the right, in that I have little to no problem with identity politics in and of itself. I actually find it to be inevitable – our identities and other things that define us are inherently important, and we would be kidding ourselves by saying that they don’t matter in politics. The issue I have with identity politics is the fact that it’s being used as a means to  advance the leftist agenda and conservatives are not allowed to emphasize any parts of their identity without oppression by the progressive “thought police.” If Justice Barrett was a pro-Roe v. Wade, Ginsburg-esque liberal appointed by Obama, Clinton, or Biden, her background as a mother of seven children would be extensively highlighted and heralded by the left. She would be rightfully regarded as a hero to working mothers everywhere. She would be praised for her Catholic faith like Biden is by the mainstream media instead of being ripped for it.

An opposite case from Justice Barrett can be seen with Liuba Grechen Shirley who in 2018 was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee in New York’s Second Congressional District, only a few miles away from where I had lived the first 24 years of my life. Shirley is a progressive Democrat and ran with the support and endorsement of the pro-abortion group EMILY’s List. During her campaign, she was praised by the left for being a mother to two young children. After losing to longtime incumbent Pete King, she founded a Political Action Committee called “Vote Mama,” which (taken straight from the homepage of its website) “supports Democratic moms with young children running for office up and down the ballot and across the country.” Apparently, it’s okay for liberal Democratic candidates to run for office to emphasize that they are mothers to school-age children, but if a conservative judge does the same, she is accused of wanting women like herself to be oppressed.

At the end of the day, Barrett has emerged victorious. Her nomination is a done deal as she is now on the Court and is hearing cases as I am writing this article. However, she, and conservative women everywhere, will always remember how disgusting she was treated by the other side, and how political feminism, identity politics, and gender equality seemed to make an exception for her.