One of the interesting things emerging from the current Democratic primary race is the lessening role of identity politics. Having commonalities with a feature of a candidate’s identity, even if that identity has been that of a marginalized group, seems to be no longer sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support for that candidate. Take for example, what happened to Pete Buttigieg at a fundraiser in San Francisco,
At the center of San Francisco’s National LGBTQ Center for the Arts, two queer activists stood up and disrupted a private fundraiser for Pete Buttigieg after he received a question from the audience about his husband, Chasten.
“I’m definitely proud of the fact that a gay candidate has made it thus far, but it’s hard to enjoy or appreciate when his stances are so middle of the road and speak to a predominantly white, upper class audience,” Celi Tamayo-Lee, one of the activists escorted out of the fundraiser, said in an interview before the event.
Friday’s protesters cited many of the same issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community nationwide say are giving them pause – Buttigieg’s unwillingness to support Medicare for All, free college for all, his issues with communities of color, his ties to billionaire donors – all issues that are not specific to the LGBTQ+ community but still affect them at certain intersections.
“We need better, we deserve better,” Adiel Pollydore, a 26-year-old program director with Student Action who is black and queer, told the Guardian. “There’s a level of irony that this event costs hundreds of dollars to attend in the Mission, a historically Latinx and immigrant neighborhood. What does it say that this event is not accessible to the folks that live in the neighborhood where it’s being held?”
It turns out that Sanders leads among LGBTQ+ voters, maybe because he has been well ahead of the curve on gay rights.
Sanders has a long record of support for gay rights. As Burlington mayor in the 1980s, he proclaimed a Gay Pride Day, while during his tenure in the House, he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act and “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a law that barred gay and lesbian military service members from acknowledging their sexual orientation. And in 2009, Sanders endorsed marriage rights for gay couples — three years before then-Vice President Joe Biden did the same.
Remember that the Defense of Marriage Act and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” were both introduced during the Democratic presidency of Bill Clinton and were part of the ‘liberal’ Democratic orthodoxy of the time.
Although identity is still important and having people break identity barriers in elected office is worth supporting and celebrating, it looks like a candidate cannot take for granted that voters who share some feature of their identity will reflexively support them. Those people will undoubtedly give them a closer look and feel some initial affinity but the candidate has to deliver on the major issues that concern them that often transcend identity.