Conservatives claim they’re tired of identity politics. They hate people who play the victim. They hate groups that cry persecution.
But the hatred of identity politics isn’t real. It’s a ruse. In fact, modern conservatives engage in the same exact identity politics they lambaste the left for. The only difference is that they’re better at it.
When liberals complain about white privilege and racial injustice, conservatives dismiss them for practicing identity politics, or using one’s identity to push ideology. But they don’t have a problem with identity politics. They’re using the term as catch-all phrase that allows them to demonize and ignore the validity of diverse perspectives. Moreover, it puts liberals on the defensive, which the right loves more than anything.
Examples of conservative identity politics are boundless. Celebrities joking about the president’s endless lying are “liberal Hollywood elites.” Journalists criticizing MAGA dolts are “thought police.” Students protesting fascist spewing speakers on college campuses are trying to “censor free speech.”
Every conservative offers simplified explanations of complex issues to defend their own ideology. It’s the same tactic conservative pundits criticize Black Lives Matter and other activist groups for using. The difference is that conservatives are arguing in bad faith. They decry the usage of identity politics but ignore their own.
In this Fox News explainer video on identity politics, the narrator omits “social” from the type of groups that use them (Merriam Webster’s definition includes it). That narrows it down to racial, religious, ethnic and gender minorities. But when you’re as loud and boastful about your persecution as conservatives are, social and political minorities count equally.
Right wing personalities constantly play the victim card. This week, Meghan McCain whined about liberal media bullying of Trump supporters on The View. Fox News contributors like Tomi Lahren alternate between calling liberals snowflakes and oppressors. Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson is quick to clown anyone who disagrees with him, but in the next breath will proclaim free-speech fearing leftists are relentlessly attacking conservative “counter culture.”
This quick pivot from playing the victim to victim shaming is a product of the disingenuousness that defines conservatism. Take Mike Huckabee’s tweets from before and after the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In the span of 24 hours, he transformed from tough free speaker into a triggered crybaby.
— Jeremy (@DSky3) April 29, 2018
Comedian Dennis Miller denounced Michelle Wolf’s WHCD performance (and wound up writing a pretty vicious self-own). The rest of his Twitter feed is littered with identity politics jokes, many of which are somehow worse than Huckabee’s.
Kanye West is the perfect example of how far that disingenuousness goes. West represents exactly the kind of Hollywood elite conservatives usually want to shut up. But because he praised Candace Owens and endorsed alt right narratives about slave mentality, he was exalted by Watson, Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump himself.
It’s not a new tactic on the right, but its use has exploded during the Trump era. His need for constant adulation has further exposed right wing discourse for the coddling crock of shit it is. The liberal persecution narrative was the cornerstone of Trump’s presidential campaign. Conservative pundits, politicians and media outlets have placated him by co-opting that message and vilifying liberals since. It’s why Fox News has essentially become state-run media.
Conservatives act as though political minorities are exempt from identity politics. They’re wrong. Especially when their media and politicians have spent years intentionally separating themselves from the left through bad rhetoric and worse policy. Conservatives’ go-to argument is “liberals do it too,” but even the left hasn’t taken self-victimization this far.
There’s nothing wrong with being offended by a person’s words or actions. It can even prove useful in calling attention to an issue that might be otherwise ignored.
But using intellectual sensitivity as a target one day and a shield the next is disingenuous and toxic.
It’s time to call conservatives what they are: identity politicians of the highest order.