There are consequences to local identity politics

I’ve followed with interest the story of State Representative Safiya Wazir, who at age six was a refugee from totalitarian Afghanistan. She eventually found safety and freedom in our great country and in 2018 was elected to represent Merrimack District 17 (Concord’s Ward 8) at the State House. She was acclaimed as our “first refugee representative.”

I was also a five-year-old refugee from a totalitarian nightmare – Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba. In 1965 my family legally immigrated to Boston. We embraced America, learned the language, and assimilated. I worked hard to become the first in my family to graduate from college and was able to retire at age 55. Like Wazir, I ran for a House seat in 2018, as a candidate for Merrimack District 9 (Canterbury/Loudon). If elected I’d also have qualified as a “first refugee representative.”

Wazir’s primary victory became a national story after she handily defeated a four-term Democrat incumbent. My Republican candidacy received zero media attention. Apparently, the story of a 58-year-old, white, male, refugee-candidate didn’t compare to Wazir’s saga.

I understand. Wazir’s election was likened to that of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a twenty-something socialist who upset a long-term Democrat incumbent in a primary election for a New York congressional seat. There is a novelty factor about young women in their twenties defeating established “old white guys.” Compelling stories of underdogs overcoming the odds resonate with all of us.

The expression “old white guy” has been used a lot lately. Consider how much it came up during the Kavanaugh hearings – as a pejorative. This troubling phenomenon represents a trifecta of prejudice which diminishes people due to age, race, and gender.

It’s called “identity politics.”

It’s particularly noxious in the way it pits group against group while inviting charges of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. if one challenges a member of a favored group.

Much criticism of our 44th president was muted or avoided due to fear of the “racist” epithet. Our 45th president, on the other hand, has no similar immunities.

Wazir’s general election opponent, Dennis Soucy, was by all accounts as fine a man as one could hope to find in Concord. A veteran. An Eagle Scout. A church usher. A cancer survivor. A community activist who has lived on the Heights for decades. A wonderful candidate.

But as an older white guy, Soucy faced “racism” charges despite running a principled campaign. The bullying practices of Wazir’s supporters and chilling effects associated with identity politics should trouble all of us.

Apparently Wazir’s circumstances, voting history, or qualifications could not be discussed. But we – and she – deserve better. Speech suppression is what Wazir and I fled from when we escaped from Afghanistan and Cuba, respectively.

So where are we now? Aside from the 18 votes she’s missed, Wazir has a 100% record of voting for every socialist or anti-liberty bill that’s come up in the current legislature–marching in lock step with the far left Democrats currently ascendant in Concord. She’s voted to increase business taxes (HB623), interest and dividend taxes (HB686), for an FMLA income tax (HB712) and against Second Amendment rights (HB109).

Ponder her contemporaries in Afghanistan, who were subject to the brutal Soviet Communist occupation and who are still threatened by the oppression of the Taliban and Sharia Law. Might they be distressed or even ashamed at how quickly she’s forgotten their history and how willing she is to restrict freedom while empowering government?

But identity politics provide protection from scrutiny or criticism.

To paraphrase a great civil rights leader, I believe that “Candidates should be judged by the content of their character, by their experience, and by the substance of their positions–not by their age, race, or gender.”

I truly believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would agree.

Loudon’s José Eduardo Cambrils is a retired engineering manager with BAE Systems and a former and future House candidate for Merrimack District 9 Canterbury/Loudon.