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Identity politics are ruining our country

By A.J. Morris

Guest columnist

In a movie trailer for the upcoming film plainly titled “Civil War,” a man with an M-4 rifle gazes at a group of detained and unarmed civilians.

They have just told him that they are “Americans.” After a moment’s consideration, he asks them, “what kind of American are you?”

Clearly meant as a work of sensationalist fiction, the line nonetheless seems to be a poignant reflection of the state of the Union in 2024. A quick glance at the current U.S. Congress speaks volumes to this sentiment. Any decision now made on Capitol Hill seems to be prefaced not with JFK’s famous challenge to “ask what you can do for your country,” but to instead ask “what kind of American Congressperson are you?” 

The results speak for themselves. Not since the Great Depression has a Congressional session produced so few bills. The most recent example of Congressional inaction is perhaps the most outrageous of all. 

With time running out to pass a national budget, a porous border straining under the weight of record levels of immigrants, and the Ukranian military running out of ammunition, the House of Representatives went ahead with a mind-boggling two-week recess. Regardless of one’s political position, this should frustrate every American taxpayer and voter.

The word voter is key here. 

Thomas Jefferson once quipped that “the government you elect is the government you deserve.” The house, it seems, is exactly what the constituency that voted for it deserves. The model MAGA voter doesn’t seem to care quite as much about making policy decisions so much as about lawmakers who act out their preferred form of grievance-driven identity politics. The results are obvious.

When voters begin caring more about the “kind of American” they’re voting for and less about the health of the nation, the result is a political party full of people whose political leanings become their very identities instead of just opinions.

The instant that happens, discourse is no longer about ideas but about identity, and true discussion and cooperation become almost impossible. You cannot discuss away a person’s identity.

At a time that will likely be regarded as a watershed moment in history, Lincoln’s “better angels of our nature” as Americans are sorely needed. 

Two ‘crisis du jour’ watershed moments facing Americans are the question of border policy and aid to Ukraine. The two crises, though on opposite sides of the planet and not directly related, are consistently intertwined in the rhetoric of congressional policy discussions.

One such example is found in a recent speech by Senator Rand Paul. In a long monologue on the Senate floor, Senator Paul chastised fellow Republican supporters of a bill to send U.S. aid to Ukraine as “believing in Ukraine first, and America last”, and accusing them of “flushing money down the toilet by sending it to other countries” instead of trying to secure the southern border. Many American leaders echo his sentiments.

This appears, at best, to be disingenuous and a blatant attempt at political posturing, or at worst, an intentional misrepresentation of the strategic facts.

Ukraine is a watershed moment in the history of war. The recently released “Army Force Structure” plan is a vivid reflection of this fact. Observing two years of combat in Ukraine has led the U.S. Army to begin re-writing its tactical doctrine and the way it organizes to fight. Drone offensive and defensive capabilities are front and center in the urgent changes.

Insisting that the urgency of supplying Ukraine with basic needs like ammunition is somehow linked with and contingent on funding for border security should be an obvious logical fallacy.

Yet many members of Congress insist on a fait accompli link between the two issues and demand a combined vote instead of voting on each decision separately. Logic and effective action are set aside in order to guarantee continued delays designed to give their presidential candidates talking points for the 2024 election.

Americans should not stand for it.

A.J. Morris is a native of Jackson serving his country abroad. The Jackson Post’s opinion/editorial page is meant to help launch public discussion of local issues or allow local people to discuss national or statewide issues. Publication of a column is not an endorsement of that column by The Post, its owners or any of its advertisers or employees. To join the discussion, send a guest column or letter to the editor to brandon@jacksonpost.news. Submissions for a specific week’s print edition need to be sent by Monday night. Sending does not guarantee publication that week as that is based on space availability.

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