Ben Carson, Joan Gubbins and Identity Politics

People usually use the term “identity politics” to mean blocs of voters who cast their ballots for people with whom they share an identity.

For example, during the last two Presidential elections, opponents of President Obama often attributed his huge advantage among black voters to his skin color. Of course, “they” would vote for one of “their own.”

If that were true, of course, African-Americans would be lining up to support Ben Carson. They clearly aren’t, and a lot of Republicans don’t understand why. The confusion lies in a profound misunderstanding of what we should probably call “communities of interest” rather than “identity politics.”

Most readers of this blog, even those who lived in Indiana at the time, will not remember Joan Gubbins, a particularly unpleasant woman who served in the State Senate in the 1970s. Gubbins was a forerunner of today’s social conservatives–among other things, she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and memorably campaigned against her opponent in one primary by going door-to-door and explaining that the voter’s choice was between “a good conservative Christian and a damn liberal Jew.”

The Women’s Political Caucus (of which I was a member) endorsed her male opponent, who supported a number of women’s rights measures.

Women’s organizations like the (now defunct) Political Caucus and Emily’s List usually support women candidates–but not those with positions inimical to women’s rights. In the 2008 Presidential race, no self-respecting advocate for women’s equality was persuaded to vote Republican because Sarah Palin was on the ticket.

Latinos support candidates with reasonable positions on immigration and other policies relevant to that community. Whatever Ted Cruz’ ethnicity, he’s not going to get the Latino vote.

Women don’t disproportionately support Hillary Clinton because she’s female; they do so because she has championed women’s issues. (Sorry, Carly. As Sara Palin’s candidacy should have demonstrated, female plumbing isn’t enough.)

In 2016, African-Americans aren’t going to vote for a monumentally unqualified Ben Carson, whose positions suggest that he suffers from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome.

Anyone who thinks that “identity politics” means voting for someone who “looks like me” just doesn’t get it.


  1. You just turned my coffee sour with the mention of Joan Gubbins. Singularly unpleasant, indeed. She was part of the “fresh bread” contingent that brought bread to the GA with a warning that it would all go away if the ERA was ratified. Unpleasant and dare I say it, not cerebrally gifted.

  2. I’ve said this before…Carson reminds me of the character Chance from the late 70’s movie “Being There”.

  3. We have had discussions here on the path to sobriety open to Congressional Republicans. That path requires them to leave the Freedom Caucus behind. Their version of freedom is to impose what they feel is best for them on everybody else.

    This perhaps came to a head in the negotiations recently around Speaker of the House. Paul Ryan declared that he would take the powerful job only if rebellious factions of the GOP declared their support for the party. At first the Freedom Caucus’s response was, take a hike Paul, we’ll only support a Speaker who gives us our way. Then, inexplicably they announced that they would support him.

    Hmmmm. Was that a result of a Republican ultimatum to shape up or ship out? Hopefully.

    Clearly America is sick of their antics and recognizes that they’ve created the mess of inaction Congress has become.

    Is Congressional recovery in the offing?

    We’ll see.

  4. How can any thinking American – including Republicans – some do still think, take Carson seriously on any issue? Take seriously as a presidential candidate or “The Donald’s” running mate? I wonder; after his public statements in this 2016 presidential “campaign”, how many patients needing brain surgery would even consider him as their surgeon?

  5. In response to Chris, I would say Chance was totally clueless. He had lived in his employer’s mansion all his life and only related to the garden he tended. His clothes, as I recall, were from the 1930s because he wore his by-then deceased employer’s wardrobe. Dr. Carson has no such excuse. Dr. Carson has been in the World outside the brick walls of a mansion. Johns-Hopkins, where I believe Dr. Carson was on faculty, is in the heart of Baltimore, the city that gave us “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” One cannot get more real than Baltimore. Also, Chance was benevolent—clueless, but benevolent.

  6. I vote on issues, not color, religion or gender. A certified WASP, I have voted for Obama twice and my vote had nothing to do with race (“race” doesn’t exist in any event since there is only one – only color exists). As of now, I expect to be voting for Hillary, who has more heavy experience than all of her opponents combined. Carson is out of his league as I (a retired lawyer) would be out of mine if I called myself a brain surgeon. He should run for president of the AMA.

  7. “In the 2008 Presidential race, no self-respecting advocate for women’s equality was persuaded to vote Republican because Sarah Palin was on the ticket.”

    Millions of women voted for McCain/Palin, and you insult these women by saying they lack “self respect?”

    “Women don’t disproportionately support Hillary Clinton because she’s female; they do so because she has championed women’s issues.”

    Women support Hillary, because she stands for Woman+1, the idea that a certain identity is entitled to more rights, more money, more power than another person, simply due to identity. Democratic politicians routinely sell their candidacies by engaging in identity+1 to pander to a constituency by offering goodies or extras.

    Carson and Fiorina, like all Republicans, stand for the idea that all persons are identical and all are due the exact same respect before the law. Carson and Fiorina will always welcome Black or women voters, but the understanding when you vote for and Republican candidate is White+0, Black+0, Woman+0.

  8. Gopper, you are off your game. Your comments are not even remotely relevant to the subject matter. Go watch Fox News for a few hours and come back with the appropriate talking points like a good boy.

  9. The removal of Joan Gubbins from the House is an example of what is unlikely to happen today. A GOP Ward Chair you, Sheila surely knew, realized the only way to beat Gibbons was to recruit a Republican who was of the same priorities as you. Then she convinced many Dems to choose a GOP ballot in the primary. Voila. Gibbons was gone. Would that concerned citizens follow that practice to elect better officials.

  10. Wayne,

    most people aren’t quite up to the level of sophistication you appear to possess. It appears more voters like you and I would have saved Lugar’s seat.

  11. As far as Hillary being a champion of Women’s Rights –

    Clinton Foundation –
    Saudi Arabia
    The kingdom gave between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation between the time the foundation was created through 2014, and some portion of the funds was contributed in 2014, according to the foundation. >>> Saudi Arabia is a real role model for Woman’s Rights- Right????

    The Sultanate of Oman gave the foundation between $1 million and $5 million through 2014, including contributions given in 2014, according to the foundation database. >> Is this country another champion of Woman’s Rights???

    So what do you think the chances are that Hillary will speak out loudly about the lack of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia and Oman or human rights in general in these countries???

  12. We should not confuse craftsmanship with wit. One would be insane to infer Carson would not be a good choice for surgery. But to imply that such qualifies him for leadership is to confuse capabilities. They don’t cross over. Being a great artist doesn’t qualify one to fly a plane. Give me Carson in the cutting table but Capt Sully in the flight cabin.

    People of color have never had difficulty discerning between field and house ‘people’.

    They never will.

  13. Gopper reminds us that it’s impossible to share entitlements because when you do they’re no longer exclusive enough to be considered that which only some deserve.

  14. Louie,
    do you believe she’ll do the bidding of the Saudis? Anymore than she would for the NAACP? Or the AFL/CIO?

    Once seated, pols do just about what they want to. Look at Obama, W and Slick Willie.

  15. Every time I hear (unfortunately) Ben Carson say something on tv it stuns me. I find it really difficult to believe that this man was intelligent enough to be a brain surgeon. He says some really stupid things. It would be interesting to hear what his former colleagues have to say about him.

    There are many people in my area that think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Of course, he first caught them by appealing to their radical religious beliefs. When forced into discussions about him I mention that just because he was a brain surgeon does not mean he is qualified to be the President. No one has yet offered an explanation as to why he is qualified.

    I do not know what qualified him to be the head of neurosurgery at whatever hospital he worked at. Could it be that no other surgeons wanted the job?

    I have never forgotten a statement that a respected local physician made in my high school freshman health class:

    “Remember, half of the physicians graduated in the bottom half of their class”.

    He wanted us to understand that not every MD actually knows what they are doing. Something that many people would be wise to contemplate, rather than believing that if you are a physician you must be very intelligent and held to a higher level of respect in society.

  16. Louie and Earl. Our upcoming job is to elect somebody to do a job that we purposely limit the power of. We, for good reason, purposely tie one hand behind his/her back.

    We also subscribe to a media entertainment culture that requires huge sums of money to be competitive in.

    Finally we look for people to do the job with leadership capability, the ability to influence others to get things done.

    There is nobody perfect for the job. We must settle on the least compromised candidate.

    A perfect world would be otherwise but that alternative isn’t available.

  17. I LOVE that countries which are very hostile to women’s rights give large sums to the Clinton Foundation which fights for women’s rights, education, health, and economic opportunity in those same countries. Too good.

    Sheila is so right about identity politics. I was appalled that John McCain selected Sarah Palin who was not a good representative of women or their interests. Her shallow knowledge was evident and an embarrassment to women in particular but also to the nation at large.

  18. Earl Kennedy – I thought about taking the Repub ballot for Lugar. But I was the Dem precinct committeeman and would have been removed. Choices and the consequences have to be considered.

  19. Lugar has no one but himself to blame. He should have maintained a residence in Indiana rather than vote using some lady’s house that he sold her 30 years earlier. To this day, Lugar and Bayh both continue to vote using Indy addresses at which they clearly don’t live. They are lucky they aren’t prosecuted. Lugar didn’t have a residence in Indiana when he was an Indiana Senator and he burned bridges with Republican officials. He wouldn’t campaign for Republicans, he wouldn’t raise money, and he forbid them (though it probably wasn’t something he could stop) from using his photo in ads. Democrats like to talk about how great Lugar was, but if they had someone who treated their party members like Lugar did Republicans, they wouldn’t be so fond of him.

  20. Good answer, Louie. Don’t forget her chortling over the death of Muammar Gadaffi. I realize not many will shed tears over him, but he was allied with the US after 2003.

  21. Paul,

    you’re correct on every point but wrong on the issue. You have to play the cards as dealt:

    (1) This is Indiana, the Mississippi of the Midwest.
    (2) Here we have not saved districts, but a saved state!
    (3) You can believe every other member on the Hill takes the same advantages.
    (4) Lugar was a Jack. Donnelly is a trey.

    Wayne: Maybe you should have stood up for your convictions and tried to convince your peers to do the smart thing.

  22. I gave up believing in miracles decades ago; including the miracle of expecting every elected official – including President Obama, W and President Clinton – to be able or allowed to fulfill ALL campaign promises. I do expect them to do their level best attempting to do this; W didn’t even pretend to be trying and created wars we will never finish paying for…financially or with lost and maimed lives. President Clinton managed to leave the country with a large budget surplus even being side-tracked by other “affairs”. President Obama has faced brick walls since day one of his first administration; obstacles no other president has faced. His biggest mistake, which he and 99% of the country are still dealing with, was not allowing W’s tax cuts to the wealthy to end on the date W set. This failure turned many against him who had voted for him, Republicans took over and they will never agree to the reversal of those tax cuts.

    It is not humanly possible for any president or elected official to fulfill all promises that were part of their political campaign; they meet new challenges not left by the previous administration along with those that were left behind. W’s leftovers are still problematic to President Obama, the entire Congress and all but the 1% of Americans. I do not remember Ms. Gubbins but I see that Nancy fully understood my comments about Ben Carson; his public persona is one of lack of common sense and questionable intelligence and awareness regarding all issues we are facing today. Sorry; I wouldn’t have confidence in the man if he returned to his earlier career as a brain surgeon.

  23. From Earl > Louie,
    do you believe she’ll do the bidding of the Saudis? Anymore than she would for the NAACP? Or the AFL/CIO?

    There is a huge difference in my mind between the NAACP and AFL/CIO and donations from Middle Eastern Dictatorships. Plus, if you are trying to sell yourself as a Woman’s Right’s Champion, as Hillary is, you should not be accepting a donations from countries where Women’s Rights are non-existent.

    girl cousin, > I certainly remember Hillary’s giddy, chucking remark on Gadaffi’s death. It is still on the internet. Gadaffi was a brute, but the Saudi’s still employ public beheadings and crucifixion.

  24. Gaddafi was a brute but he was our brute, born and bred. Just like the Shah, we put him there and supported him. As long as we adhere to this neo imperialism we are saddled with its offspring.

  25. We’ve all heard about the benefits of a benevolent dictator. We’ve also heard how absolute power corrupts absolutely. So we’re stuck with democracy if we want to be free. But, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

    No wonder we all complain so much.

    What’s remarkable is the steady progress that we’ve made for so long despite all of the flaws we are burdened with.

  26. Pete! Through our recent exchanges, you have done an excellent job of perpetuating the negative stereotype that conservatives have of liberals. You have dismissed my observations as naïve or out of touch, you have ignored most of my questions, you have ignored the programs others have proposed, you have equated change with better. You offered an article on some “happiness index”. I have read several such articles that cherry-pick the data to support their premise. One example was a study that considered drug addiction but ignored alcoholism. In all of those studies the “happiest” countries are always the ones with the most homogeneous populations, although the articles rarely mention that fact. You offer a single article as proof of the paradise that is Denmark in spite of numerous articles with a much more negative view. Liberals are ready to add the power phrase “settled science” to single payer health care but articles in Federalist, Guardian, New York Post, Reason, Daily Beast, & Boston Globe, just to name a few are not as optimistic. You have decided I am irrelevant and I suspect, for this group, I am. In spite of the press accounts of conservative obstructionist, liberals have no interest in working together. Both Reagan and Clinton demonstrated the leadership to create an environment of compromise. The current President came into office and said, “we won, so sit down and shut up!” (Paraphrase)
    I realize that liberals expect to win inevitably so why bother helping to enlighten the unwashed? The irony of this scenario is that you criticize conservatives for thinking they are superior to others, not because it is not nice to act superior but because liberals are the superior ones.

  27. This is a long one, skip if you want – sorry, perhaps I got carried away…

    I guess I most want to respond regarding single payer health care. I benefit daily from such a system (disclosure). Given wait times, idiotic exclusions, etc., I can certainly find occasions for serious complaint. Nonetheless, I will not complain – it does serve me well. And, very relevantly, a friend, who did not survive brest cancer, as she was wrestling with the last stages of this terrible situation, said – “If you hear anyone complaining about our health care, Sock ’em!”

    She and I often spoke about the differences we perceived between Americans and Canadians. It seemed to us that the medical system was a salient metaphor, in that we, as a nation, were agreed that it was fair and proper for every person to be protected, with no regard to ability to pay, etc. We are all invested in the idea that it is best for health care to be universal. Of course the details are up for argument, constant argument, but the principle remains firm (see most recent national election results). It seems that perhaps universal, single payer, health care should be described like democracy – a terrible system, except when compared to all other possibilities.

    Which brings us to criticisms, both of medical and political systems and of the so far competing ends of the “values” spectrum. As our new prime minister remarked in his acceptance on election night – “conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbors!” I believe this blog promulgates that principal, but so far, led very far astray by the urge for so called balance, we have stumbled into a shadow world where black is accepted as white just because “someone maintains it is so” – right you are if you say you are…

    So, Ken, it may seem that people ignore your points. Sadly, right at this stage in the overall discussion, you need to take several further steps toward evidence, away from the “you all don’t listen” end. So much humbug has been put forward by every respondent on the right, from Palin through Gingrich to Bush III, that the burden is on you to really prove your depth.

    That said, if you are willing to post, or re-post the links to some of your references – especially those regarding Scandinavia, I will read them and comment if I can.

    I do have one sort of universal caution, which is this – there is always a jerk, even in the most upstanding crowd…you can always find something negative in the real world, BUT, these real negatives do not obviate a more central point, e.g.: Scandinavian countries appear to be good for their populations, but they do have high suicide rates, ergo, there must be something terribly wrong with living there and they cannot be used as positive examples because of this statistic…

    I apologize if I sound patronizing, I do not mean to be, to anyone, but I do want to see if we can get past name calling (even if I am VERY tempted)…

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