Michelle Obama Falls Into the Identity Politics Trap

The high point of Michelle Obama’s rousing speech to the Democratic Convention came when she was discussing her efforts to protect her children from the pettiness of politics in the spotlight. She encouraged them that the hateful language they hear “does not represent the true spirit of the country” and that when someone acts like a bully “you don’t stoop to their level.”

“No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Sadly, Mrs. Obama did not “go high” this week by miscasting Republicans as “all men, all white” and criticizing women who voted against Hillary Clinton.

At the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, Mrs. Obama recalled sitting in the State of the Union and noticing the lack of diversity in the chamber and thinking “no wonder we don’t trust politics.”

“It’s a feeling of color, almost. On one side of the room, it’s literally gray and white, literally, that’s the color palette on one side of the room. On the other side of the room, there’s yellows and blues and whites and greens, physically there’s a difference in color in the tone,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd.

In comments later in the week at the Inbound marketing conference in Boston, Mrs. Obama continued her curious caricaturization of the Republican Party, arguing that any woman who voted for President Trump “voted against their own voice.

“Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” the former First Lady said.

She didn’t stop there. “To me, it doesn’t say as much about Hillary…No, no, no. What does it mean for us as women? That we look at those two candidates, as women, and many of us said, ‘That guy. He’s better for me. His voice is more true to me.’ Well, to me that just says you don’t like your voice. You like the thing we’re told to like.”

Taken together, Mrs. Obama’s comments minimize the voices of Republican women and minorities while simultaneously arguing that if women voters knew what was best for them, there would be fewer Republicans in Washington. In other words, if you’re a Republican Congresswoman you’re not worth paying attention to, and if you’re a Republican woman voter you’re wrong (even, apparently, if you helped elect these Republican Congresswomen).

Unsurprisingly, the Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee expressed her disappointment at the condescending comments.

“[I]t’s very insulting and condescending to continually see the Left try and minimize my voice that we didn’t vote based on issues or that if a woman voted for President Trump, some have said, it’s because their husband told them to,” Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “It is so marginalizing and it’s unfortunate to see the former First Lady continue to double down on the politics of division that have symbolized the Democrat Party for far too long. We need to start bringing people together and the comments that she made are not comments that help move are country forward and they certainty are not indicative of the Republican Party that I see that champions all people.”

Representative Mia Love (R-Utah) had a similarly powerful reaction.

“I don’t fit in a box,” Love said. “I am a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a Utahan. I am a black Republican who cares about America and cares about all people.”

The theme that Democrats, and liberal pundits, seem to be purposefully missing is that Republicans champion and care for all people. We are the party of equal opportunity and freedom for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, and whatever other “identity” Democrats would like to prescribe. Our motivating ideal is to open opportunities and empower everyone to build the kind of life they want, not the kind of life that Washington wants for them. Republicans fight against entrenched interests, promote economic diversity, and fight for freedom because these are unifying themes that benefit everyone, as compared to the Democrats’ identity-centric agenda that can only succeed by pitting group against group, American against American.

We don’t assume a paternalistic stance that assumes women, or any other demographic group, votes based on their label. We recognize and respect individuality and diversity, that a voter considers innumerable factors when choosing whom to support, things like economic policy, taxes, stance on abortion, and improving education. We purposefully refuse to allow a person’s sex, color, or sexual preference to supersede all other considerations, instead acknowledging that diversity of thought refuses to be bound by such labels.

Michelle Obama opted to reduce a demographic group to a caricature and then brand it as foolish. She also wanted to disparage an entire party and embarrass those who believe in its values. Fine. When she goes low, we’ll go high. And we’ll do it by respecting everyone’s opportunity to choose the candidate they feel represents them.