One of the 10 Democratic candidates for Wisconsin Governor admitted that his party is “pickled in identity politics.” Former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Matt Flynn made the comments Monday to WHBY Appleton talk radio host Josh Dukelow.
Dukelow told Flynn he believes the Democratic Party focus has shifted to “identity politics” since the time Flynn chaired the state party in the 1980s. Dukelow then asked Flynn if he agreed with that characterization and, referring to Flynn, asked if the Democratic Party will elect an “old white guy” (Flynn is 70). Flynn was candid to the extreme in his answer:
“Our party right now, and I’m probably the only one who says this, is pickled in identity politics and victimology. And when I was at the convention recently, in Oshkosh there were multiple caucuses of, there were all these subgroups, and there is no assimilation of the party anymore. When I was the chairman there were no caucuses. And I’m of the party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy. That’s the legacy…A lot of these other people. They are very, very nice people, but they scurry around with these various identities, and so on, and I think that sets me apart as well. So my own belief is that we should get rid of the caucuses in the Democratic Party and come together again. There were no caucuses under Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, and John F. Kennedy, and they won’t be under Matt Flynn if he’s the governor.”
According to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin website, the party has the following caucuses:
American Indian Caucus
Flynn’s sentiments echo those of historian Mark Lilla, who argued that identity politics was killing the liberal movement in his book: “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.” Lilla sparked outrage in some liberal corners for his position on identity politics in a 2016 New York Times opinion piece. Lilla told Wisconsin Public Radio in August 2017 that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign provided an example of how identity politics has gotten the left into trouble:
“For example: when Hillary Clinton was on the stump, what she would often do at the beginning or the end of her remarks is that she would call out to various groups that were there. And so, she would call out to women, to Latinos, African Americans, to gays, to the disabled…And a certain type of Democrat was very happy with that, because it sounded like we’re being diverse.
Well, a lot of people were left out of that list. Nearly 40% of this country is Southern, 1 out of every 4 Americans is an evangelical. And in the parts of the country that we need to win back, you really find a lot of Southern Evangelicals. Those people were explicitly excluded because in the Democratic idea of identity politics, there are certain groups because of their suffering, but also just for historical reasons…And we’ve become detached from what people are experiencing elsewhere in the country. But even more importantly, we get out of the habit of speaking to all citizens together as a way of bringing them together…
Lilla came under heavy criticism from some on the Left for his thesis. Time will tell if Flynn’s comments will receive a similar reception from the Wisconsin Left.