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Not Dead Yet: Identity Politics' Next Wave

Reports of the death of identity politics have been greatly exaggerated, writes Susan E. Reed. Pictured: A man walks past a building with the phrase "Not Our President" written on the facade to protest against President-elect Donald Trump Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Reports of the death of identity politics have been greatly exaggerated, writes Susan E. Reed. Pictured: A man walks past a building with the phrase "Not Our President" written on the facade to protest against President-elect Donald Trump Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
COMMENTARY

Reports of the death of identity politics have been greatly exaggerated. One month after mourning, wailing and venting over the election of Donald Trump, many of the people he insulted, derided and threatened throughout the presidential campaign found their feet and marched together across 29 cities urging members of the electoral college not to vote for him on December 19. Their unified protests could form a powerful counterblast to the new administration.

“[My] biggest dream is that next month he will not be our president, and all his hate mongers will be gone,” said Ann Hartman Massaro, 68, a longtime activist and national director of Women & Allies, a group she organized via Facebook shortly after the election.

The broad and reductive nature of Donald Trump’s comments enabled the groundswell that has become the backlash to the backlasher.

Massaro, who supported Hillary Clinton, said her local chapter will back any Republican the electors choose instead of Trump. Although this may seem a farfetched idea, Republican elector Christopher Suprun from Texas will not vote for Trump and believes other Republican electors won’t, either.

The largest demonstrations by Women & Allies were in the blue states. Isabella Gutierrez, a 21-year-old senior at New York University, organized a rally in New York City, where thousands marched past Trump International Hotel and Trump Tower holding signs that read “Dump Trump,” “No Trump KKK,” and “P--- Grabs Back,” among others. One tenth of the protestors were male, and some demonstrators raised posters supporting rights for LGBTQ.

Like Massaro, Gutierrez has no trouble speaking her mind. Gutierrez, whose family is from Colombia, is tired of the anti-immigrant sentiment she feels in this country. On her Facebook page, Gutierrez wrote: “When people be like 'go back to your own country' Like bitch, this is my country, you go back to YOURS. My ancestors lived in the Americas before Europeans came to colonize it, this land is my land.”

At the New York event, attendees were asked to sign a petition requesting electors to vote for Hillary Clinton, instead of accepting any Republican, as Massaro wanted. But such differences do not let the activists stop them.

“The good news is that we have built this whole generation of women activists as a result of [Trump]; they cross all lines, class color, religion, all lines,” Massaro told WNHH community radio in New Haven, Connecticut.

Women & Allies also found followers in the red states, albeit far fewer. According to their Facebook page, dozens of people signed up to protest in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

The official tally of electoral votes is scheduled to occur during a joint session in the House of Representatives on January 6, 2017. If the electors do wind up choosing Trump for president, Massaro has vowed to go after his administration, which she said wants “to take us back 50 years.”

As she allies her organization with Black Lives Matter and plans to join the Muslim march on the White House on December 19 in Washington, Massaro is steadily creating a unified counterblast to the backlash against women, minorities, the disabled and immigrants that Donald Trump unleashed during the campaign.

As many members of Massaro's movement see it, Trump reduced the value of Mexican immigrants to that of criminals; the value of Muslim immigrants to that of terrorists; the value of the disabled to that of incompetents; the value of African Americans to the destitute; and the value of women to mere physical appearance. No matter what any one person in any of these groups achieved, they would always be viewed by Trump's bigoted lens, it seems, as lesser beings.

The broad and reductive nature of Donald Trump’s comments enabled the groundswell that has become the backlash to the backlasher. If making America great again means returning to the bad old days of blatant discrimination, then they do not want it.

If non-Trump supporters can put their singular identities aside...they could form a powerful pushback to a Trump administration.

Trump seems like a throwback to the era described by journalist Susan Faludi 25 years ago. In "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women," Faludi described the 1980s as a decade in which powerful voices undermined, criticized or shouted down women who were pursuing a new or independent course in life. It is a backlash that Hillary Clinton has known most of her life, especially as she challenged the traditionally demure role of First Lady.

If non-Trump supporters can put their singular identities aside, vowing not to be defined by any particular aspect, be it gender, race, religion, sexuality, income or ability, amplify their collective message through social media, and develop viable political candidates, they could form a powerful pushback to a Trump administration. They could create a new era of collaborative identity politics.

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Susan E. Reed Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Susan E. Reed is an award-winning columnist who has reported from more than 30 countries. She is also the author of "The Diversity Index."

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