by Jason Jackson
What distinguishes the Republican Party from the Democrat Party is that Republicans build our coalition around principles, while the Democrats build their coalition around identities. The Democrat strategy is to cobble together a coalition of African Americans, Hispanics, single women, gays, and union members and hope that group equals 51 percent of the electorate. That’s why identity politics are so important to Democrats. They believe that we owe our rights to government and that rights vest through our membership in collective groups favored by government. As such, their electoral prospects are hitched to dividing us up by our descriptive characteristics and making their party the benevolent benefactors of government largesse to as many identity groups as possible.
Contrast this with the Republican Party which stands for a few simple principles – that the traditional family, free markets, low taxes, and a strong national defense are the keys to national prosperity, and that all human life has dignity. That we support these principles are to the advantage of the Republican Party because it means there is no ceiling on the size of our coalition. Our principles aren’t geared toward bestowing rights or privileges on some special interests in exchange for their votes – we believe that our principles are the path to prosperity for everyone in all walks of life.
Sadly, Carl DeMaio seems to have lost sight of this somewhere along the way, disrupting a once promising political career in the process. When he was on the San Diego City Council Mr. DeMaio earned the support of conservatives with his focus on reducing the tax and regulatory burdens confronting San Diego families and business. Instead of continuing to make this the focus of his recent losing congressional campaign, DeMaio chose to play identity politics, actually going so far as to use his sexual orientation as a political tool to distinguish himself from conservatives. As the results showed, that was a losing strategy.
Unfortunately it seems Mr. DeMaio didn’t learn anything from his loss either. He posted on San Diego Rostra last week to parrot the news that “Republicans are making gains with a new generation of candidates,” while disparaging “older white men.” It seems to have been lost on Mr. DeMaio that the new generation of Republican leadership identifies itself first and foremost as Americans and conservatives. As a recent Politico article observed, presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal didn’t win their statewide races by campaigning as the Hispanic candidate or the Indian-American candidate, they campaigned as the conservative candidate.
While Mr. DeMaio will not be sworn in as a congressman next month, a woman from whom DeMaio could learn a lot will be. Mia Love will be sworn in next month as Utah’s newest congresswoman, and in so doing will become the first African-American woman in the Republican conference. Yet when asked about the historic nature of her victory Ms. Love said, “This isn’t about my race or my gender, this is about values.”
The Republican Party is a big tent party and we should have a diverse coalition because our principles are appealing to people of all backgrounds. Building that coalition is a worthwhile cause that should be championed and celebrated. But we can’t lose sight of our principles and embrace the identity politics and the collectivist philosophy of the Democrats to achieve our goals. Doing so is sure to result in defeat at the polls, or at best a pyrrhic victory that actually undermines our values.
Jackson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2002. After graduation, he deployed as a naval officer in support of the War on Terrorism, earning the Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, and numerous campaign and unit citations for his service in the conflict. He has a master’s degree in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, CA. He was a contributing author to the war memoir, In the Shadow of Greatness, and has also written several papers on constitutional law and election law.
The column above was published on the author’s blog, jeffersonjackson.com, and appears on SD Rostra with Mr. Jackson’s permission.