Dividing to Conquer: How Identity Politics is Weaponized by Politicians

It’s no secret that politicians often use a variety of tactics to appeal to their base and gain support. Two of the most powerful tools in their arsenal are the theories of relative deprivation and social identity. However, while these tactics may help politicians win elections, they can be detrimental to society as a whole.

Relative deprivation theory suggests that people are more likely to feel discontented and take action when they feel that they are not receiving their fair share of resources or opportunities, or when they perceive a gap between their current situation and their expectations. This theory has been used to explain a wide range of social phenomena, from political unrest to violent extremism.

Politicians can easily exploit relative deprivation by stoking fears and anxieties among their constituents. They may use rhetoric that suggests that certain groups are unfairly benefiting at the expense of others, or that resources are being unfairly distributed. This can create a sense of anger and resentment among those who feel that they have been left behind, which can lead to social unrest, protests, and even violence.

Similarly, social identity theory suggests that people are more likely to identify with and support groups that they perceive to be similar to themselves, while also displaying hostility towards groups that they perceive to be different. Politicians can exploit this tendency by using language and imagery that reinforces a sense of “us versus them.” They may promote the idea that certain groups are a threat to the interests of their constituents, or that they are somehow inferior or dangerous.

This kind of rhetoric can be incredibly divisive and harmful to society. It can lead to the creation of “echo chambers,” where people only consume information that reinforces their pre-existing beliefs and are less likely to engage with people who hold different views. This can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, which can make it difficult to find common ground and work towards shared goals.

Furthermore, when politicians use these tactics, they are essentially pitting different groups against each other for their own political gain. This can make it difficult to build coalitions and work together to address important issues that affect everyone, such as healthcare, climate change, and poverty.

In conclusion, while politicians may use tactics such as relative deprivation and social identity to win elections and gain support, they can be incredibly harmful to society. By stoking fears and anxieties, and creating divisions between different groups, politicians can make it difficult to find common ground and work towards shared goals. It’s important for voters to be aware of these tactics and hold politicians accountable for promoting unity and cooperation, rather than division and resentment.