The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics
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The 2016 election showed that identity politics was a major force to be reckoned with — and also one that couldn't win. President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE was able to utilize discussions on race and gender to goose turnout in 2008 and 2012, but by 2014 a series of Democratic candidates that based their campaigns around such tactics failed, and hard.  

Take former Senator Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE of Colorado, who painted his opponent, the moderate Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRepublicans jockey for position on immigration Bipartisan bill would toughen North Korea sanctions, require Trump's strategy GOP senators push for delay of ObamaCare insurer tax MORE, as a woman-hating pro-life extremist to the point where even his allies referred to him as “Mark Uterus.” That year, the unpopular Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper won re-election 49-46 percent; Udall lost 48-46 percent.

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Also in 2014, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis ran for Governor, shaping her campaign around her strong pro-choice stance. Despite painting her opponent, Republican Greg Abbott, as being out-of-touch with women, Davis’ campaign turned out to be a “massive disappointment.” She received less than 40 percent of the vote in Texas.

By 2016 the calls were stronger but the cause seemed weaker. Presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE played the woman card (sometimes literally) at an unprecedented level. After being excoriated for taking cautious stands in the 2008 race, she raced to reach the leftward portions of the Democratic Party in her battle against Vermont socialist Senator Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE. While this reflected heavily in her changed policy proposals, the largest changes had to do with two things: race and gender.

Believing herself in a commanding position toward the end of the race, Clinton hyped the gender argument. Her campaign produced multiple ads accusing opponent Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE of being anti-women. One ad, released in September, asked voters if Trump is “the president we want for our daughters?”

And at the three debates, especially after the 2005 Access Hollywood “Trump tape” was released before the second, Clinton relied heavily on the identity politics playbook. Even the New York Times covered the debate in such a vein.

It’s clear now, however, that Clinton overplayed the gender card. Rather than focusing on her own policies and proposals, she focused squarely on Trump’s comments about women.  Clinton’s campaign paraded former model Alicia Machado at her rallies after was revealed that Trump criticized her weight gain in the 1990s.

And after Clinton's surprising collapse on September 11th, her campaign repeatedly stated — and it was parroted by pop culture and media — that she was being held to a different standard due to her gender. They said instead she was stronger than her male counterparts because she was “powering through” the incident.

But the repeated arguments of breaking the glass ceiling had an expiration date. Even left-wing sites and thinkers began to question the tactic. A late October op-ed in the Social Jungle argued that Clinton was closing in on a large win, but that her tactics might split apart a potential coalition.

By overemphasizing the gender issue, the writer op-ed stated, Clinton may turn off women voters who may consider other matters to be of greater importance. The writer feared that the tactic would push male voters to Trump — which ultimately happened.

By the end of the election, Clinton's credibility expired. With other lower-profile competitors on the ballot, such as Jill Stein and Gary JohnsonGary JohnsonCourt: Excluding outside parties from presidential debates does not violate First Amendment Juan Williams: Dems finally focus on message Mueller to give first speech since taking on Russia probe MORE, many women found candidates they could support due to their positions, rather than just their gender.

On Election Day, Clinton saw a minor bump in women voting, but her share was lower than President Obama's in 2012. Clinton especially suffered with white women and also saw declines in the number of black women voting.

What Clinton failed to recognize is that for the most part, “women’s issues” are the same as men’s issues. Like their male counterparts, female voters care about the job market, education, the cost of healthcare, and safety for our communities. Women are not a special interest group, and it’s demeaning to treat them as such.

Does this year’s turn of events spell the end of identity politics nationwide? Perhaps – it certainly appears that the overall trend is receding. However, there are signs that it might not let up completely. While Trump had a large victory in the Electoral College, Clinton still garnered nearly three million more votes than him nationwide. Enclaves in large cities and university towns are unlikely to give up their recent leftward shift.

While the jury is out, there are still enough encouraging signs that perhaps we can get back to talking about the issue rather than gender or skin color.

Kristin Tate is a conservative columnist and author of the book "Government Gone Wild: How D.C. Politicians Are Taking You For a Ride And What You Can Do About It."


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