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What’s so bad about identity politics?

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images In the Democratic camp, Super Tuesday confirmed nothing more than the continuation of the Clinton-Obama battle—one that Salon‘s Rebecca Traister describes as one of “nasty psychobabble of identity politics” that forces her to “tap one underrepresented population on the shoulder and say, ‘I pick you to advance first.'” Identity politics distracts from ...

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GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

In the Democratic camp, Super Tuesday confirmed nothing more than the continuation of the Clinton-Obama battle—one that Salon‘s Rebecca Traister describes as one of “nasty psychobabble of identity politics” that forces her to “tap one underrepresented population on the shoulder and say, ‘I pick you to advance first.'”

Identity politics distracts from the issues, but there’s a reason. Identity matters—maybe not in terms of legislation or policy, but certainly in terms of image. And image can go a long way, especially when you’re the leader of the free world and your face is on every television around the globe, 24 hours a day. As I noted earlier this week, the U.S. race between a woman and a black man is turning heads in Belgrade. And on voiceswithoutvotes.org, (a recent extension of Global Voices), a Haitian blogger explains why these two candidates matter abroad:

As a Third World-er, I have always thought that there is little difference between American politicians… I have never felt more segregated than when I was in the United States. Here in Haiti world music, art, and science are accessible to all. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about a young Haitian to be mad about Celine Dion, Bocelli, Monet or the human genome… What I learned is that in the United States, if you are Black and you listen to George Michael, for example, you are considered “black with white taste,” that there are movies for Whites and movies for Blacks, music for Whites and music for Blacks…

It is undeniable that Hilary [sic] Clinton and Barack Obama want to shake the status quo. A woman and a black carried by the same dream of presiding over the world’s most powerful nation.”

Even if identity politics challenges democracy at home, it may do a world of good for the image of American democracy abroad. And on that front, the U.S. is in serious need of damage control.

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