From violent protests to sexual harassment scandals, 2017 showed us just how much Americans’ race, gender, religion and sexual orientation play a role in how they process ideas and policies coming out of Washington. As voters gear up for the 2018 midterm elections, identity politics doesn’t seem to be going away. And so, here is a look at some of the most newsworthy moments of 2017 related to identity politics.
NFL protests: During a campaign rally for Sen. Luther Strange, R.-Ala., President Donald Trump referred to black NFL players who have been protesting racism and police violence by kneeling during the National Anthem as “sons of b---hes.” He suggested that NFL owners should fire the players for exercising their First Amendment rights, catapulting a long-simmering debate about protesting athletes to a new level. While most Americans did not agree with Trump’s suggestion to fire the players, voters generally agreed with him that the players shouldn’t be kneeling in protest during the anthem.
LGBT issues: During his presidential campaign, Trump asserted that he would make a better president for the LGBT community than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. But after he was elected, Trump failed to recognize LGBT Pride Month in June, which commemorates the birth of the modern gay rights movement. He also proposed that transgender people be banned from serving in the military, allegedly joked that Vice President Mike Pence wanted to harm LGBT people and endorsed a Republican Senate candidate who said that homosexuality should be illegal. Yet this year brought some victories for the LGBT community with historic election wins in Virginia, Seattle, Minneapolis and other races.
The #MeToo movement: Revelations of sexual harassment and assault led to the resignations and firings of some of the most powerful names in politics, media and entertainment, a movement set off by a series of allegations by women against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In Congress, we saw seven sitting members lose their jobs over sexual misconduct claims. Bipartisan lawmakers proposed a sweeping expansion of workplace protections, including introducing legislation that aims to make the complaint-filing process easier for congressional employees. The members of the #MeToo movement capped off an influential year by being honored as Time’s Person of the Year.
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Black women voters: Black women, who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, showed this year that they are one of the Democratic Party’s strongest voting blocs. Their votes stopped a Trump-backed candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. And in Alabama’s special election, African-American women showed up in record numbers to help Doug Jones defeat GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was facing accusations of sexual misconduct with teen girls and who alluded to the time of slavery as a “great” period for America.
White nationalist rally in Charlottesville: White nationalists from across the country descended upon the home of the University of Virginia with chants like “Jews will not replace us” to protest the removal of city monuments honoring Confederate generals. But the violence turned deadly when one of the protesters drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one of the activists. During a news conference two days later, Trump blamed “both sides” for the violence, a comment that the majority of Americans viewed negatively.
Millennials’ political outlook: A Harvard Institute of Politics poll found that 67 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are more fearful than hopeful about the country’s future. Young adults have historically had low participation in midterm elections, but discontent with Republicans among millennials could bring the country’s youngest group of voters out in higher numbers than usual. Fewer than three in 10 18- to 29-year-olds approve of Trump’s job performance. Millennial voters played key roles in the 2017 elections and will likely be influencers in 2018.
Evangelicals and Trump: Arguably the most reliable voting bloc for Trump – and the GOP – has been white evangelicals. Trump is very aware of this, frequently thanking the group for its support of his presidency. He has granted the Christian Broadcasting Network more interviews than he has given mainstream media organizations. Some evangelical leaders, pleased that Trump has granted evangelicals more access to the Oval Office than ever before, feel confident that the trend will continue throughout his presidency. Others, however, have expressed concern that their reputations and the reputations of their churches have been hurt for standing behind Trump, Moore and other controversial figures.
Race relations in America: According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, the overwhelming majority – 82 percent – of Americans believe 2017 was a bad year for race relations. After Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence and his strong criticism of the protesting NFL players, 60 percent of Americans say Trump’s election was responsible for worsening the country’s racial tensions.