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When Men’s Trait decided to start covering politics, it was because of Donald Trump, the unlikely Republican nominee for president. At the time all we did was round up his best/worst quotes and threw them in a slideshow, having a good laugh at his expense and generally just enjoying the success making fun of him brought. And making fun of him made for good business; that article has been the most read on our site in its history (god bless SEO and Google). Since then, we’ve basically been accused of being stooges for Hillary Clinton, but a quick glance at some of our articles (here, here, here, here, here and here) prove we’ve not exactly been nice to her either all the time.

I, in particular, have been very critical of the Democratic nominee for president, and though I’m not writing about her much (or in general) at the moment, there are plenty of critiques to be handed out. My opinions about Hillary Clinton are more a reflection of how I feel about both the Republicans and Democrats right now than they are what I actually think of her. I don’t know her, and my friends who’ve spent time with her seem to think she’s awesome, so I’m sure she’s an alright person. I just wholeheartedly believe her presidency would be terrible for the United States.

This is an unpopular opinion to hold in liberal/progressive circles right now, as many of you probably imagine. Liberals have always been expected to rally around the Democratic nominee for president and typically do, so my unwillingness to do this has caused a lot of my friends to scratch their heads, especially with the threat of Donald Trump nigh. When my friends hear “Trump”, I swear they immediately imagine every single nuclear weapon in the world exploding at the same time, ending all life on earth for the next 2 billion years or something.

It’s funny, because I too see the nuclear connection with Trump, only I think he is the nuke, aimed squarely at the undemocratic practices of both the Republicans and Democrats.

The DNC’s recent email leak was very telling. In it we learned that the party wasn’t exactly unbiased in its treatment of the two major candidates for the Democratic nomination for POTUS, that they literally reward rich people for giving them money, and that they have relatively exploitative views of religion—among myriad other less-than-savory things. I was a reluctant Democrat before this election, but thank Jesus that’s over. It’s essentially like getting out of an abusive relationship only to realize you’re much better off alone.

On most policy issues, the Democrats really aren’t that bad in my view, and I fully respect everyone’s right to disagree with me on that. I’m not here to argue policy. I’m here to basically call out the Dems for being corrupt pieces of shit who use their positions to garner favor among the right capitalists, selling out both national interests and the will of American voters for personal gain. Oh, by the way, the Republicans aren’t any better. Both are rubbish parties that really need to be swept away and replaced with a true multi-party system featuring proportional representation and rank-choice voting.

Naturally my dislike of Hillary Clinton the politician is because I’m sexist and buy into all the right-wing conspiracy theories that she’s fucking all the Illuminati and killing Vince Foster nightly for shits and grins, because the Illuminati can resurrect him or something. I’m sure I’m getting that partially wrong, but that sounds like some of the über ridiculous conspiracy theories I’ve had the enjoyment of stumbling upon.

But no, my dislike of Hillary Clinton the politician has everything to do with the type of politician she is. She’s made rather suspect arms deals with Saudi Arabia, which then sent millions to the Clinton Foundation. She’s the type of politician that sells out gay people until they can help her win an election. She’s the type of politician that stumps for others (Kathleen Matthews) in exchange for favorable media coverage (from Chris Matthews on MSNBC). Oh, by the way, in the DNC email leak we also saw the DNC carefully craft the messaging for writers featured at media outlets like MSNBC and CNN. See, corrupt. The scarier part is that of all the corruption we know about, there’s got to be more we have no clue of. The evidence of the revolving door between government and the private sector is strong, and while many might not consider it “corruption” in the traditional sense, I don’t know what else to call politicians using their positions to further the ambitions of private entities in exchange for lucrative lobbying jobs after. The politicians are getting the reacharounds while we’re the ones getting fucked.

When one steps back and remembers the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, which all but made political bribes legal through election fundraising, it’s easy to be dejected and cynical about our government, and more specifically the people who make up that government. Let’s also not forget about President Obama leveraging the IRS to do some dirty work, or that George W. Bush started a war for his buddies in the defense sector. Corruption in the United States is real—it just doesn’t look like corruption in countries with less sophisticated governments and economies.

But, back to Citizens United, which has transformed corruption from K Street lobbyists finding ways to get politicians nice perks and jobs to completely unfettered buying of politicians and elections in plain sight through campaign contributions. Of all the internal and external threats to American democracy, our campaign finance laws are the worst. “Nuh-uh,” say all you corporate apologists. “There’s no evidence the companies and rich people are getting kickbacks,” you claim.

Business 101: When you make an investment of several millions dollars, you expect some kind of return. That’s what investments are. You put in a little money today in the hopes of it translates to more money later. I know this because I invest all the time, in marketing, other businesses, people, etc. Business people and companies that make investments in the political campaigns of others expect something in return. Those expectations could be altruistic, like the lobbyists for animals rights groups, or they can be sinister, like pretty much everyone who helped fund G. W. Bush’s presidential campaign.

When politicians accept this money, they’re entering into an agreement to deliver something to their donors. When Bernie Sanders raised funds from voters, he promised them something in return (universal healthcare, tuition free public college, not being corrupt, etc.). See? It’s a reciprocal thing. So, I wonder, what people donating millions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign want. Something tells me free college tuition isn’t on their list of rewards. Can we prove this? No, because those people have face-t0-face closed door meetings we’re not privy to. These people are smart and won’t leave a trail of breadcrumbs too often.

After speaking with a staffer for a Republican Congressman, who wished to remain anonymous (because duh), he painted a rather chilling view of just how powerful these titans of industry are. According to this staffer, when Brian L. Roberts or one of his representatives shows up on Capitol Hill, everyone’s schedule is clear until he’s had his time with the Congressman. Everything stops. No matter where the Congressman is when Roberts  arrives, he stops whatever he’s doing and goes back to his office, where Roberts is waiting for him. Brian Roberts is the CEO of Comcast, one of the most powerful entities on earth, and this is the clout he carries.

And Donald Trump will even admit this happens. “Most of the people on this (Republican debate) stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money … I give to everybody. When they call, I give,” Trump admitted last August. “And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.” Wow, Donald, that is a broken system! Granted, I don’t believe much of what Trump says, but he really didn’t stand to gain anything from that statement.

Donald Trump accepts Republican Nomination

Image: Twitter

So, for those of us who subscribe to the notion that outside money is corrupting our democracy, we’re wondering how to get out of this election without voting for someone who is going to completely prison fuck our country’s citizens. Taking a look at all the campaign finance information available, we know Hillary Clinton has a lot of friends in the business world. Donald Trump is the single most scary presidential nominee I could have drawn up, but we’re literally watching Hillary Clinton sell our government to outside interests by taking their money.

These are not concerns everyone has. As Matt Taibbi pointed out recently regarding the British vote to leave the European Union, sometimes people don’t think the masses should be making decisions because they do stupid things, which is why it’s okay for elites to play the role of puppet master. If you’d prefer to hear it straight from the elitist’s mouth, Andrew Sullivan excused big money politics in a piece titled “Democracies end when they are too democratic,” which is plain lunacy. The fear of mob rule in democracies is very real, and had Sullivan been arguing that point only in his piece, I probably wouldn’t have balked, but in reality he was arguing to excuse the excesses of corruption within government to stop Donald Trump.

Just how bad this corruption is is up for debate. Some people imagine a bunch of little Jewish guys sitting around a dark room somewhere hidden in the Swiss alps sipping brandy from the skulls of Christians while plotting the takeover of the world and forming a single global government that enslaves all of humanity. The rest of us just think business leaders use their clout for favorable tax rates and lax regulations on their industry. It’s more complicated than that in practice, but the gist of it is closer to the latter than it is the former.

I’m not going to call Hillary Clinton evil, and I’m not going to leave you with the impression that she’s just a manchurian candidate for a mysterious wealthy elite cabal. (It’s also really popular to call her a liar, but I lie all the mother fuck’n time, so…) No, she merely accepts donations from these people and considers their wants and desires when it comes time to shape policy, even at the expense of people like you and me. Hillary Clinton is a smart and talented woman. She’s not someone else’s lapdog, but she does recognize the hand that feeds her. That’s how corruption in the United States works, with some fun little wrinkles pulled in from time to time. Even Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, former governor of and current senator from Virginia, knows how to pry money from the willing hands of Wall Street.

How dangerous this is to democracy and the United States is up to you to determine for yourself. For me, the immediate damage isn’t the concern, but rather it is the long-term effects of an electorate constantly seeing their wants and desires shelved in favor of the will of big business that frighten me. Americans already don’t vote consistently, and it is only going to get worse the more people feel they’re getting screwed. The fewer of us that vote, the less democratic our society is. A dead democracy is scarier than people acknowledge, and it feels like we’re rapidly approaching that pinnacle of corrosion in our elections.

Any other recent year, it would be easy to vote for the outsider against the establishment politician. This year, however, we’re blessed with Donald Trump, who is the boogeyman we’re all afraid of.

Anticipating Donald Trump’s presidency is difficult since he has zero political experience—which is scary in its own right. Our imaginations can go any number of directions, but generally the majority of Americans don’t think it would turn out too well if Trump wins in November. Consider me one of those people. I’d probably put Trump’s potential presidency in the “buffoonery” column if I were a betting man, though most of my friends and colleagues would put him in the “scary” category. I still can’t figure out if he’s just in over his head and flailing out of complete incompetence at the task or if he’s legitimately lost a bit of emotional and cognitive control. He’s picking fights with his friends, the families of veterans, his enemies and babies, instilling confidence in fewer and fewer people each day.

Since officially snagging the Republican nomination during a rather uneventful and boring Republican National Convention in July, all Donald Trump has  been able to accomplish is losing ground in pretty much every poll to his Democratic foe and worsening his net favorability/unfavorability rating. While Clinton’s net favorability/unfavorability rating isn’t anything to write home about, she’s not in Donald Trump’s territory.

If Trump is incompetent, and not actually a sociopath excited to get the stubby little fingers on his cold orange hands on the launch codes to the United States’ nuclear arsenal, we could probably survive four years of him in the White House. He has so few friends left, most people don’t think he’ll be able to accomplish much in the way of legislation. And the Democrats are likely to gain control of the Senate, so the specter of a horrible Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice isn’t really all that threatening. Incompetent Trump is a lame dunk president, and I could probably force myself to vote for someone I loathed if I thought they’d accomplish nothing. Trump doing nothing is infinitely better than Clinton further strengthening the unseen oligarchy, imo.

But if all the left-wing rhetoric is true, if we take everything Trump says at face value, then his presidency would be potentially world ending. He is so unpredictable I can’t even figure out if I’m being hyperbolic or not.

There is something Trump has going for him that Clinton doesn’t, and that’s political baggage. Specifically, we’re talking about political baggage in the form of familiar relationships with the types of people most Americans don’t like and 24 years living in or working for the White House, Department of State and Senate. If Clinton represents the candidate that challenges democracy by taking part, without hesitation, in a corrupt campaign finance system, Trump represents the populist anti-establishment sentiments that also propelled Bernie Sanders so far in the Democratic primary. It’s very real, and people genuinely want money out of our politics. So many of us think it is a pervasive process that undermines the very principles of democracy—that every man and woman has the same influence as any other through their solitary vote—which is why we oppose a candidate like Hillary Clinton. But can we oppose Clinton in favor of Trump?

The American public is pretty much over politicians like Hillary Clinton. It’s why Republicans quickly and ruthlessly disposed of all the establishment Republican candidates during the primary. Don’t forget, Ted Cruz was the only Republican other than Donald Trump that did anything of note in the primary, and he’s not an establishment politician either. He’s closer, but his own party hates him. Hillary Clinton could have easily lost to Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, a self-described socialist with bad teeth, horrible hair and very little support from other politicians. The fact he was in the race past Super Tuesday is a miracle and officially recognized as one by the Catholic Church.

People see what’s happening, and we want change.

The other morning at breakfast, while sipping on my iced tea and eating my bagel, I dubbed Trump the U.S. electorate’s nuclear option.  I mean it. Donald Trump is the biggest, most destructive weapon we have right now to send a message to beltway politicians that the American public is tired of being the vehicle that delivers those with questionable ethics straight to Washington D.C. Donald Trump, the guy who says all the wrong things, doesn’t play by the rules, the one not receiving big money donations (as many, rather)… Donald Trump might be democracy’s best hope right now, in a “you really shouldn’t do that” sort of way. He’s the ultimate “fuck you!” to the people 81% of the electorate is railing against. That’s an accurate number, 81% of Americans don’t trust their own government. That partially explains how someone like Trump, who is almost literally the polar of what a traditional politician is—his relationship to the truth, like that of all elected officials, is noteworthily suspect—is doing inexplicably well.

Calling him democracy’s best hope is admittedly pushing it, but after both major political parties came so close to losing their control over the electoral process, it’s not irrational to think the Democrats and Republicans might retract this whole democracy thing and make it more difficult for non-establishment candidates to secure their party’s nomination. It may not be the same as stripping away voting rights from people (or closing polling stations), but when you limit people’s choices you essentially make the choice for them.

Donald Trump winning could result in the same exact thing, but if Trump’s nonconformism is a winning combination, the parties are much more likely to figure out how to harness voters’ angst, not silence it. Donald Trump winning weakens both political parties, and two weaker parties open up room for new options, and options are good in democracy. Trump, even being shitty, is good for Democracy…

…if he’s not actually as scary as the major media outlets would have us believe. If he is that scary, well, that’s one hell of a bomb about to tick away in Washington D.C..

Donald Trump might save us from the Hillary Clintons of the world, but at what cost? Are we talking four years of a do-nothing president, or are we cutting off our noses to spite our….oh, fuck, we just blew up the world. See, that’s the predicament America. Get in line and vote for someone who knows how to game the system, or roll the dice and hope the nuke we’re launching has some good tracking coordinates.

Granted, if we gamble by voting for Donald Trump, we should probably expect a counter strike from those we’d be standing up to. See, Trump is our nuclear option. Maybe it’s best if we just don’t, you know, use it right now. Maybe, just maybe, there is a plan C out there for us.

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Movies & Television

Should fans care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Deadpool is the first superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture, and that a superhero movie has been nominated for anything other than its effects.

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deadpool-gallery-03-gallery-image

Image: 20th Century Fox

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) announced Monday night its nominations for the Golden Globes, and amidst the usual gossip of snubs and surprises, the biggest shocker came in the form of nominee for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical, Deadpool. This marks the first time that a superhero movie has been up for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and honestly one of the few times ever that a superhero movie has been nominated for a major award for anything other than its effects. The question is, should we, as fans, care?

Now first off let’s just say that Deadpool was a hell of a movie. It zipped back and forth between crass and witty in a wonderful comedic ride that stayed true to the heart of the titular character that even the best of superhero films struggle to accomplish. The story of how the film came to be made probably deserves a documentary all it’s own, with the climax, of course, being the moment the test footage was leaked to an adoring public. No one is trying to say that Deadpool didn’t deserve to be nominated as one of the best comedies of the year.

However.

The Golden Globes have been notorious for years as the ultimate “Who Gives a Shit” awards. The Oscars have a voting pool of over 6,000 members, the Emmy’s have more than 18,000 members, and the Screen Actors Guild gives a vote to each of its 165,000 members. And how many people vote on the Golden Globes? 88.

And these are 88 people with some of the most tenuous of credentials possible. To become part of the voting bloc, an applicant must first be sponsored by two people who are already a part of the HFPA, but after that, all they must do is produce four published articles a year. This combination of nepotism-based admission and one of the lowest bars imaginable to maintain membership has always marred the Golden Globes and kept them from being truly respected as an award. Thus, them nominating anything for anything has very little meaning to it.

However.

As we said earlier, Deadpool‘s nomination marks the first time a superhero film has been up for Best Picture. In a way, it is a huge accomplishment for a genre that has always been viewed as merely action spectacles with little substance. Every year superhero films have managed to take a few steps closer towards wide-spread critical legitimacy with recent films beginning to take on serious topics and truly explore the emotional complexities of its characters.

When viewed from that light, Deadpool‘s nomination for Best Picture, even if only for a Golden Globe, could, in an incredibly optimistic, best-case scenario, serve as a precedent for future superhero films to earn awards beyond Best Visual Effects.

Which brings us back to the original question, should fans of superhero films care that Deadpool was nominated for a Golden Globe?

Sadly, no. While Deadpool is no doubt deserving of the honor, even should it win the award – it won’t, it’s going to go to La La Land, we’re calling it now – the Golden Globes simply aren’t respected enough for their opinions to sway any of the other award communities.

If you are one day hoping to see all of the Avengers (or the Justice League . . . I guess) on stage accepting the Academy Award for Best Picture, then please, don’t hold your breath.

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News

Reasons to take a news break over the holidays

I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

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donald trump doesn't like this picture

Image: Twitter

Donald Trump has taken up residence in my brain and is making himself at home. And he’s invited Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, and all his other white nationalist friends over too. They’re even tickling my brain and invading my dreams. Well, as the holidays approach, I say “NO MORE!”

That’s right. I am determined to take a “Trumpcation” (A portmanteau of “Trump” and “vacation”) during the forthcoming holidays. Chanukah and Christmas overlap and, as a Jew who celebrates both, that means that my Trumpcation will last for a full eight days. That means no reading about him, no talking about him, no going out of my way to check his Twitter to see the latest gaseous explosion that spurted up out of his mind. Now the man is so ubiquitous right now that it’s impossible to completely avoid him, so if he comes up in a conversation or happens to be on TV, that’s fine. But other than that, I am determined to have a Trump-free holiday. I wanna focus on the warmth and fuzziness of family and friend togetherness instead. It will be a total and complete news break.

Of course, that is what I said two days before Thanksgiving. I planned to spend the entire weekend in a Trump-free bubble. I thought I had prepared by blocking his Twitter feed and yet the Twitter feed did not block me. Facebook friends posted screen caps of his latest bilious Tweets. Relatives and friends brought him up in nearly every conversation. His orange visage glowed forth from every TV I passed. And, of course, once somebody brings him up, I’ll be knee-deep in an endless conversation about our rage, our sadness, and our fear. Because I am a hopeless news junkie and I maybe have a masochistic streak where I fill my head up with the scariest news stories I can.

Intellectually, I know that it is high time for a Trump break. Writer Martijn Schrip, of the site High Existence, makes the argument that taking a news break is good for the brain.  He states that too much Facebook checking for the latest horrible newsworthy event makes us neglect the issues in our own lives in favor of the bigger problems facing the world. In addition, too much reliance on news makes us “junkies” looking for our next fix of information. People go to the restroom solely to check Facebook and whip out their phones whenever they see someone else on their phone, as if it’s a Pavlovian response. For me, it gets rough because one of my first acts when I wake up is to check Facebook. Since I have so many friends ( ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)) and am following so many pages, my brain gets inundated with a typhoon of information, think pieces, rants, and listicles. And since Trump is everywhere, he is usually the first thing I see every morning. Talk about a great start to my day….

It’s rough, guys. My way of coping with my intense fear of what’s coming is to constantly see what Trump is up to. His Twitter feed gives me a weird feeling of control. I know I don’t actually know what he’s doing but, since he Tweets so often, I trick my brain into feeling like I’m keeping tabs on him. I’m obsessed with seeing what new policies he is adopting or which old ones he’s backing away from. That’s how I cope. I enmesh myself deeply in Trumpism so I don’t forget that he’s out there.

But this may have the complete opposite effect, unfortunately. For all of my posting the hashtag #ThisIsNotNormal, I feel as if my constant obsession with the latest outrage is normalizing him in my mind. And that is not okay because this may lead to me passively accepting whatever horrible thing ends up happening.

I wish it were possible to be on Facebook for even a day and not run across his scowling face. Before Thanksgiving, my thinking was that I can avoid him for a few days and know that he would unfortunately be there when I got back. But, alas, this was not to be. But I am determined to actually do it for the eight days of Christmakkah (A portmanteau of “Christmas” and…oh you get it). If I run across his name or face on social media, I will quickly scroll past. I’ll change the channel if he’s on TV. It’s going to be tough but I think it’s important to try. I need to keep my brain sharp and ready to fight.

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Opinion

Real talk about identity politics

This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

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Image: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

The term identity politics inhabits a similar space that political correctness did in the 90s when some people were like, “Oh shit! Words matter!” and other people were like, “I am confused and resistant to change.” This piece is a quick and dirty run down of what identity politics is and what it’s about.

First of all, while the rise of the term “Identity Politics” in popular discourse is relatively recent, the idea that groups of people will have shared perspectives and experiences based on aspects of their identity, which will then affect their political goals and positions, is pretty old. The Civil Rights Movement, suffragettes, even the Huguenots incorporated aspects of identity politics. Of course, this is also true of the Nazis, the Cultural Revolution in China, and the KKK. However, most of the time you will see the term used is in regards to those who are marginalized in some way: minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, women, and more.

To understand how identity politics function, you need to understand what I mean by marginalization. Marginalization doesn’t mean that the people in these groups are never wildly successful, never assholes, or don’t contribute to oppressing others. Indeed, many suffragettes were racist AF and the Civil Rights Movement had issues with sexism. What marginalization means is that it is culturally acceptable in large and small ways, consciously and unconsciously, to limit how certain people interact with the world. This can mean fewer opportunities, curtailing of civil rights, the threat of violence, or discounting and/or appropriating their contributions.

Another factor of marginalization and how identity politics function is that individual achievement alone does not erase problems with marginalization. Female Olympic athletes are still picked apart for not being properly made-up or skinny enough, despite exemplifying physical prowess. President Obama still faces racism as one of the most powerful men on earth. Yes, gaining power, wealth, PhDs, sponsorships, etc. may lessen the ways an individual is affected, but they do not make a systematic problem go away.

So if you are a marginalized person who is ignored, not taken seriously, or threatened, you can find people with similar backgrounds and views to organize and create coalitions. You figure out how to best get your interests taken care of, whether it’s through piecemeal legislation, all out protests, lawsuits, awareness campaigns, etc. Several people whose individual concerns were deemed unimportant become a larger political entity that demands attention and creates change.

Sometimes people take action organically without a ton of planning, and sometimes they are highly organized. That doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly, of course, because shared perspectives do not translate into everyone in a group having the same beliefs. People will have different ideas about how to get things done; the classic example in the U.S. is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Malcolm X. People within a group will also have their own prejudices, which can limit their effectiveness and cause further conflict.

If it sounds like identity politics is flawed, messy, and uncomfortable that’s because it is. There are also people who consider it the purview of the frivolous, overly sensitive, and divisive. So why bother with identity politics? Especially when they apparently need a whole article to explain the basics without a single gif or picture?

via GIPHY

For one, people engage in identity politics all the time; it’s just usually considered less controversial if they say, “as a parent,” or “as a small business owner” when explaining their perspectives, indeed if they note their identity at all. We may as well talk about our politics accurately instead of pretending some people are objective and neutral while others who have different views are advocates of special interests or worse, maliciously divisive.

This brings me to my second point. Those who believe that talking about marginalization causes societal fractures are usually those who haven’t had to deal with it. The fractures were already there; it’s just that these people weren’t aware of them. No amount of playing nice, conforming, or achievement protects you. Think of the sexual harassment of female Fox News anchors, or the treatment of Tim Scott, the only black GOP senator. Having an education, good job, and loving family did not save Sandra Bland.

To assume that party politics and platform building is neutral or more serious when they do not include different perspectives is disingenuous at best and bigoted at its worst. (Think of Gov. Mike Pence’s policies targeting the LGBTQ community and punishing women who have abortions.)

Identity politics isn’t some kind of silver bullet against every ism or injustice. Like I said in the beginning, identity politics are also at play in hate groups and dangerous nationalism. Who you are and what’s important to you shouldn’t overtake the rights and liberties of others. But identity politics can help us recognize and address problems even when they don’t directly affect us, and help us make an impact in our own society.

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