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 ObamaFormer congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles If Republicans rebuked Steve King, they must challenge Donald Trump ‘Family Guy’ says it will stop making jokes about gay people 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 Emery UdallSetting the record straight about No Labels Trump calls Kavanaugh accusations ‘totally political’ Record number of LGBT candidates running for governor MORE of Colorado, who painted his opponent, the moderate Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions 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 ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past 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) SandersTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour 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 TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles 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 Earl JohnsonHillicon Valley: Social media struggles with new forms of misinformation | US, Russia decline to join pledge on fighting cybercrimes | Trump hits Comcast after antitrust complaint | Zuckerberg pressed to testify before global panel Ex-Facebook exec ousted from company sparked controversy with pro-Trump views: report Heinrich wins reelection to Senate in New Mexico 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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