Maria Gutzeit | We Need to Come to Our Senses vs. Identity Politics


“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” 

– Atticus Finch, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

As I write this, it appears Joe Biden has swung into the lead after Super Tuesday. There’s lot of speculation as to why. I’d like to think it’s a sign that a steady hand, experience, and empathy still matter to some voters.

 Nobody is very happy with politics right now. What gets me is the loss of respect we have for each other. The loudest voices are the most negative ones, unfortunately. I recently read a story on the youth vote, where a young man stated: “Right now, if you are a white, straight male, you’re pretty much the most persecuted person right now.” 

Former Democrats in coal states feel attacked for working in the mining business, even though it is one of few jobs in rural Appalachia that exists, let alone pays more than minimum wage. A father lamented to Elizabeth Warren that he had worked multiple jobs to save up for his daughter’s college, and what help was he due? Apparently, a shrug. 

Women feel like they are living in “The Handmaid’s Tale” when male elected officials tell them how to handle a rape or a life-threatening pregnancy. People feel silenced when prayers are all they dare ask for when children and coworkers get shot. Long-time skilled workers with full legal rights to be here find new barriers to visiting family and relatives in “those” countries. Young people see the older generation primarily as ruining things for them. Identity politics has led to a severe case of us vs. them, which runs the risk of disenfranchising many.

I made the mistake of commenting on a Facebook post about the need to consider the middle of the country and the electoral college. I pointed out how the electoral college does ensure that people in rural areas, like farmers, are not swamped by the majorities on the coasts. A longtime acquaintance actually said he doesn’t give a s**t about the farmers. It should be majority rule, he proclaimed! 

To which I said: “Animal Farm.” 

“Some animals are more equal than others.”— George Orwell. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

Back in the day of Total Quality Management, we had a fascinating business workshop on “Animal Farm.” Essentially, everyone on the outside wanted “in” and protested inequity. If people, by the luck of the draw, somehow got “in,” they were all for said inequality. It was quite eerie how that proved to be the case as we rotated through the scenarios.

You can’t make lasting change if you leave a good 40-50% unhappy. The losers will merely bide their time until they can reverse all your changes. Moderation is rarely sexy, but a large group making steady improvements will always achieve more than divided folks fighting each other. 

Which will we be, as a society?

California went for Bernie Sanders, but most other Super Tuesday states did not. Initial results showed our Assembly District race did not advance a single Democrat, for a seat currently held by a Democrat. Nearly all tax assessments seem to have failed, even in relatively liberal Los Angeles County. My theory is that the people who are feeling ignored… voted.

My first beau grew up on a dairy farm and I saw LOTs of cows and lots of hard work being done. Mud, manure, and freezing temperatures. Here, sometimes it feels like Silicon Beach and social media are all that matters. Yes, we help those who need a hand. But is anyone also talking to those who do the hard work? 

The ones who run the scrapers, weld the pipes, fix the power, pick up trash, land our planes and drive the trucks. The ones who teach our kids and care for our aging parents? The single parents, moms and the middle class? How about the oft-maligned business owners? Many I know wake up in the middle of the night, work weekends, and manage to maybe take home the same pay as their employees, if they are lucky. 

What do we do when we divide into camps, yet neither camp welcomes us without making some derogatory comments? People will walk away altogether. I hope we come to our senses and seek government for all instead of for some.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.

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