Obama’s Cosmopolitan Rainbow Spectrum Splits into Sects, or Divide & Conquer

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When has sectarian complaining ever benefited identity groups in the United States?  Are the Democrats going to start a sectarian brawl and fracture the rainbow coalition that got Obama reelected?

Divisiveness among minorities rarely works as a strategy.  What will the Asian American lawmakers gain with their conversation with Obama at the White House?  Splitting up into sects with single-digit demographics (or even low double digits) doesn’t get lawmakers very far in a three-branch government with a bicameral Congress, lacking any tools for coalitional or proportional representation in the legislative process.  Playing the blame game doesn’t do any good.

With Hillary as the frontrunner, scaring off many Democratic contenders, is it a good moment to start the sectarian battles between race/ethnicity/gender/sexuality? Isn’t it better to unite?

I understand that most groups in identity politics are frustrated with Obama’s defeat on immigration reform and with the implementation difficulties surrounding Obamacare.  And they have every right to be disappointed in his lack of leadership in the Trayvon Martin case, where George Zimmerman got off without so much as manslaughter.

But it’s only going to get worse as members of Congress return to their home districts for the August recess and the GOP gets ready to launch its tried-and-true 2016 campaign strategy — arguing that Obama’s budget and sequestration “threaten” the financial superiority of resentful white men. Clearly, the GOP has decided on pursuing a variation of Nixon’s “Southern strategy” for 2014 and 2016, with Chris Christie positioned second behind Rand Paul for 2016.  Chris might do well against Hillary, with Paul poised to fall behind as the election draws closer.

For how many centuries have progressive causes in the United States been defeated by the same old “divide and conquer” conservative strategy? Whether it was a craft or guild fighting skilled labor (Knights of Labor versus the AFL), the industrial unions battling international solidarity (CIO versus the Wobblies), or the AFL fighting the CIO (and the CIO finally purging their leadership of progressives), the results are sadly familiar.

Divide-and-conquer is the American conservative classic, like the original Coca-Cola recipe. Coke Zero may make some headway among edgy imbibers, but Coca-Cola Corporation always steps up marketing its classic if Pepsi gets too many drinkers.

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Faculty/Core-Bios/Ruth-O-Brien)

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