In TAP's anniversary issue this summer, Ann Friedman defended identity politics with the simple and compelling argument that seeking justice through politics is what makes being a liberal meaningful. Rather than dismiss the issues that truly matter to the constituencies that form the progressive base -- African Americans, women, Latinos, and members of the LGBT community – as "special interests," Democrats should remember why these groups signed on to the progressive agenda in the first place.
This year in particular, that message felt really important. The last two years have seen these groups set their priorities aside for the 'greater good' -- in particular, when it came to passing health-care reform. Women's rights groups and pro-choice members of Congress compromised their commitment to reproductive choice when pro-lifers threatened to derail the health-care bill; now, implementation of reform will surely erode access to abortion. Immigration reform and the DREAM Act, labor's coveted Employee Free Choice Act, and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" were all put on hold. But, as Friedman argues, this is not a tenable strategy in the long-term:
The progressive movement will only ensure its survival by deepening its commitment to these people, not taking their votes for granted. If we continue to compromise on their concerns, or dismiss them as "special interests" working against a nebulous greater good, we will ultimately render our shared concept of liberalism totally meaningless.
When it comes to the "interest groups" frustrated by the Obama presidency, it's important to remember that their causes, just like their votes, are the lifeblood of progressivism, and pushing on their behalf is what being part of the movement is all about.
-- Pema Levy