The multidimensional politics of inequality: taking stock of identity politics in the U.S. Presidential election of 2016

Leslie J McCall, Ann Shola Orloff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many Democrats hoped that a particular kind of identity politics – women's – would help Hillary Clinton win the White House. In the aftermath of the election, some commentators bemoaned the fact that a majority of white women had voted for Trump, and called it a kind of betrayal, underlining their expectation that women would naturally, on the basis of their gender identity, support a woman with women-friendly politics. Indeed, this kind of thinking about identity politics has been widespread with reference to a number of demographic groups. Meanwhile, identity politics is lamented from the right and left by those who favour a greater emphasis on class-based inequalities, or a greater national identity, some of whom blame identity politics for spawning or justifying a backlash of right-leaning populism in the US. We argue for a turn to a more robust definition of identity as multidimensional and politically mediated for understanding political alignments over the past several decades. The multidimensionality of inequality – intersectionality or complex inequality – is widely accepted in the study of gender and race across the social science disciplines but has yet to be as successfully integrated into studies of electoral politics. Thinking about women's positioning in systems of complex inequality, and how the political parties have or have not articulated the concerns of different groups of women, helps us to understand the 2016 election, as well as past and potentially future political developments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S34-S56
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Volume68
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Keywords

  • 2016 US presidential election
  • Inequality
  • class
  • gender
  • political parties
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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