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 ObamaHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Pentagon issues report revealing ex-White House doctor 'belittled' subordinates, violated alcohol policies The Reagan era is over 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 UdallKennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' MORE of Colorado, who painted his opponent, the moderate Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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 ClintonHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Clinton praises Dolly Parton's cold shoulder top from vaccination: 'Shall we make this a trend?' Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC 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 SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case 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 TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee 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 JohnsonOn The Trail: Making sense of Super Poll Sunday Polarized campaign leaves little room for third-party hopefuls The Memo: Trump retains narrow path to victory 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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