Identity Politics.

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It’s the presidential election season, which means it’s time for political pundits and media gurus to make assumptions about who they think voters are going to support based on which demographic characteristics they possess. Voters are divided into groups and television’s talking heads then use these artificial divides to make sweeping statements about what they believe the electorate – pesky, unpredictable beings that they are -- will do.

 

For example, if you’re a woman and are either a Democrat or an Independent living in a state where you can vote in the Democratic primary, these soothsayers assume you’re likely going to vote for Senator Hillary Clinton, particularly after her recent, much-hyped “show of emotion” which the media said helped her win the New Hampshire primary. If you’re African-American, they figure you’re going to vote for Senator Barack Obama. However if you’re an African-American woman, well, that’s a conundrum for the pundits and they have to work a little bit harder to try to prognosticate what they think you’ll do at the polls. They’ll look at your marital status, your household income, whether you’re a mother, and then make a supposition about your candidate of choice as they proceed to muse about the women’s vote overall, using convenient, gimmicky terms like “soccer moms” and “security moms.”

 

But what if your own idiosyncratic demographic data don’t fit neatly into a single, pre-determined category? And what if you don’t actually cast votes based on your personal demographics? What if the issues on which you’re voting aren’t confined to issues related to your gender or race?

 

All we’re hearing from the cable TV commentators is that they know what certain groups will do when it’s their turn to cast a ballot in their state’s presidential primary. (And then they get annoyed when we don’t adhere to their playbook.) Yeah, like they knew as early as last year that Hillary Clinton would secure the Democratic nomination in a cakewalk when the junior senator from

New York was practically being anointed as the nominee before a single vote was cast. Like the pundits knew that after Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus that he would go on to crush Clinton by double-digits in the

New Hampshire Democratic primary
. Or . . . not.

 

The problem with trying to figure out for whom we will vote by examining which demographic group we belong to, is that no one belongs to just one group or can be easily categorized. There are plenty of people who demonstrate solid reasons why these old assumptions about voting behavior no longer work reliably: