Leaders who pander to a select ethnic or cultural group by demonizing others are hardly new. The United States has a long history of such ignoble characters—Huey Long, Father Charles Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace, and Al Sharpton among them—who gain power by lighting a flame of blame and revulsion on a dangerous “other.”
In years past, we called them demagogues, rabble-rousers, race-baiters, and bigots. Such fear mongering was considered shameful and despicable. Until now. Demagoguery has been reinvented to fit a new era: Welcome to Identity Politics, 2012.
In popular media, the image of an intolerant extremist is cliché—a populist white social conservative from flyover country who objectifies women and hates gays, minorities and smart people. In truth, too many Michele Bachmanns and Todd Akins still exist, but thankfully more and more conservatives are disavowing their worst actors. As they should. read more »