Paul Ryan retains his cynical view of identity politics as he closes his congressional career

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) does not like identity politics. He said as much Thursday at an event in the Capitol and has made similar comments before.

At a Q&A with Jeff Mayers of Wisconsin political news site WisPolitics, Ryan said:

Twenty-first-century technology has proven that tribalism and identity politics is effective. More to the point, which is even worse, people make money off of it.

Internet, money has proven identity politics and tribalism works. It’s politically effective. It’s morally wrong, but it’s politically effective. What bothers me is it’s being practiced on both sides: the right and the left.

It’s not that surprising that Ryan criticized identity politics. For years — particularly those tea party years when Ryan began to climb the leadership ranks, Republicans criticized the concept of identity politics as a weapon that liberals use to stoke division. To them, highlighting what makes various groups of Americans different is a negative use of time in direct opposition to focusing on the things that unify Americans. Many of these groups seemed to do this without being aware of their own tribalism — or, at worst, being fully cognizant of it and, therefore, disingenuous in their assessment of identity politics.

As someone who writes and speaks about identity politics, I think Ryan’s take — that identity politics is “morally wrong” — is an overreaction to a reality from which he himself has benefited and, arguably, stoked.

I think identity politics is neutral. It is not good or bad. It just is.

According to Dictionary.com, identity politics is “political activity or movements…

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