Policy over identity: misrepresentation in politics

Voters should not base their political stances on the basis of Identity rather consider a multitude of factors including identity, policies, and financial contributions.

Graphic illustration by Riki Murase

Voters should not base their political stances on the basis of Identity rather consider a multitude of factors including identity, policies, and financial contributions.

Apurva Krishnamurthy, News Editor

Politicians should be the voice of the people: pledging to remedy citizens’ struggles and working toward a better future. Diversity in politics is crucial for any democratic system to truly be representative of the people. Yet, many politicians market themselves as advocates for their own communities while pushing for policies that actively harm these groups.

In October 2022, the U.K.’s first South Asian prime minister, Rishi Sunak, was appointed to office after Liz Truss’ abrupt resignation. However, despite Sunak’s many attempts to embrace his Indian heritage, many South Asians believe he is not the representation they were hoping for. 

Sunak’s adoption of strict immigration policies have left many voters unsatisfied. As prime minister, he is currently pushing for a law that detains and refuses entrance to asylum seekers upon arrival to the U.K. They may also be shipped to a third-party country and banned from re-entering. During his time as chancellor, Sunak funneled millions of British pounds towards various anti-immigration efforts. His push for such regulations is ironic given that his parents and many South Asians were only able to succeed due to previous lax immigrant regulations. 

“You have to look at the merit of the candidate,” senior and AISA president Akul Murthy said. “If they are from the same country as you, that doesn’t mean they’re the right candidate for you.” 

Current Vice President Kamala Harris spent a large portion of her career working as California’s attorney general and described herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” However, her actions in this position shed a different light on this image. In 2015, Harris refused to endorse Assembly Bill 86, which called for a dedicated prosecutor to investigate fatal police shootings. She also declined to enact a policy mandating body cameras on all police officers and refused pleas to investigate fatal shootings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Moreover, Harris has been criticized for criminalizing truancy, which disproportionately affects low-income families of color. Despite claiming to represent Black Americans and their struggles, Harris has a history of  hindering progressive legislation meant to absolve law enforcement misconduct, an issue that heavily targets the Black community. 

In contrast, politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have heavily reflected the importance of representation. A representative of New York’s 14th district, AOC’s working class background and shared local and ethnic roots directly speak to its citizens, who largely come from similar circumstances.

“As a woman, Latina and native New Yorker, I think AOC has a very positive impact on young girls who are interested in politics,” junior and JSA’s public relations officer Kaawon Kim said. 

The strong immigrant presence in the 14th district is reflected through the bills AOC has endorsed. For instance, she co-sponsored the American Dream and Promise Act which works to expedite the process of gaining citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors.
AOC has also been incredibly vocal on women’s issues. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, she detailed her plans to “codify” the legislation, or protect abortion rights by federal law and override any prohibitive measures taken at the state level. 

With burgeoning minority communities across the U.S. and U.K., representation can be influential in “breaking the glass ceiling” or improving civic engagement for marginalized groups. However, many politicians fail to do so by endorsing policies that actively harm their community. Voters should look past the external identity of a public servant and study their policies rather than aligning with them strictly on the basis of a shared identity.