An IST op-ed

My better half was watching a retro movie the other day entitled “Tribes” starring Darren McGavin about the USMC and a mystical wonder child that the Drill Sargent tried to break and could not….all so early 70’s…..and typical TV drama of the day.

The title got me to thinking about our country these days and the damage that all this silliness and yes it is flipping silly, is doing to the fabric of American society.

To begin with….what is political tribalism?  n….loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group… other words….political division.

I read Political Tribes: Group Instinct And The Fate Of Nations, a new book by Yale law professor Amy Chua. Chua does not write as a political partisan. Rather, she writes as an analyst of our political culture, which is rapidly tribalizing. I strongly encourage everyone to read the book to understand the nature of our dire political moment, and how much worse it could get if we don’t find some way to stop the cycle.

I want to be very clear: Amy Chua does not side with either the left or the right in her book. She says that all of us are tribalizing. She doesn’t say this in an artificial “pox on both your houses” way. She really means it, and she shows how it’s happening.

Here on IST many visitors from the Right, because I criticize Trump, as being a Dem they are wrong and if they would just visit more often then they would have seen that I was a critic of Obama and his people as well…..but they read one post and label me.  I do not really mind just shows their ignorance.

This whole “us against them” mentality is not American in my book… accomplishes nothing politically and finger pointing is just as silly (even though I have done it in the past out of frustration).

This “tribalism” has been more successful for the Right than the Left……

In “How America’s identity politics went from inclusion to division” (Guardian, March 1, 2018), Amy Chua argues that the U.S. left has given us the U.S. right, or at least has provided opportunities for the political right to rise to power. Chua makes the case that identity politics on the left and right makes the U.S. a less inclusive society.

She is right to some extent about some kinds of identity politics, but it’s there where the equivalency ends because identity politics on the right has led to murder, mayhem at the highest levels of government, and a return to racism that is supported by the right’s enormous wealth. Identifying with their own best interests gave the gay community medicines that made AIDS less than a certain death sentence.

In my opinion the Right has succeeded in the division admirably and as they divide us the Dems try to counter and thus the division gets deeper and deeper… the country divides the Congress jumps on the bandwagon…..

A few days ago I argued that sins-of-omission by Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans in the House, and Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans in the Senate, amounted to de facto shirking of their “check and balance” duty relative to Donald Trump. Because members of the majority party in the legislative branch  wouldn’t call out or even notice Trump’s excesses—except, as with Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, when they had decided not to run again—they were putting unsustainable pressure on other parts of the formal and informal governing system. The courts, the press, Robert Mueller, and so on.

In the past I enjoyed political debate and discourse but these days it is not anything like the days I enjoyed……many especially on the Right will not except the title of “Tribes”……call it whatever you like but it boils down to political tribes…..

When it comes to politics, in 2015 we witnessed nothing less than a paradigm shift. The old rules are out the window. Technology and changing mores have conspired to lower barriers of entry—and acceptability. Gatekeepers no longer exist. What we have right now is closer to direct democracy than we’ve ever seen, and our civilization is regressing as a result.

One party (the Democrats) already represents the liberal half of the nation. The other half seems to consist of modern, Buckleyite conservatives, but also an increasingly large horde of populist, nationalist, individualistic Americans—who now have a megaphone and a vessel in the form of Donald Trump.

If you do not like the term “Tribes” then maybe “politics of identity” or “identity politics” may  tickle your fancy……no matter the title it is NOT Making America Great… any way.

19 thoughts on “Tribes

  1. The word tribes or any other title is about right. They haven’t seen eye to eye in so long, I don’t think either side knows what the h*ll is going on, they just keep arguing, and nothing gets done.

    1. I believe it began in the 1990’s….they have disagreed in the past but at least they were civil…those days are long gone and I believe Newt and his band began the tribes thingy….chuq

      1. I think it’s time for a change. As this election is approaching, I would like to see us come together and respect other ideas than your own. We may have some bumps in the road but we are still the greatest country in the world. The limitations of solutions will not get us to where we want to be; The acceptance of ideas other than from Democrat and Republican ideals will get us one step closer to the nation we have always wanted to be.

      2. I agree the key to a successful country is the ability to work together…..we have lost that ability….chuq

  2. I can identify with Tribes as a description. I have been on the Left for so long, I would never openly listen to any argument from the ‘other side’, no matter how outwardly reasonable. It is also true that this tribal mentality favours the Right, and with good reason. The Left is always fragmented, arguing among itself, factionalised, and resistant to new groups and ideas. Because the politics of the Right are very simple, mainly based on hating minorities, and fierce Nationalism, they do not have the same splintering, so are able to present a united front more often.
    This tribalism may be something new in the USA, but it has been around in Europe for very long time.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I use to hate the other side and now I just want my country back to where we got things done….and care not where the ideas originate….chuq

  3. Your post is spot on, chuq. The movie actually came out as a TV movie and for some reason it was rather popular at the time. I still recall watching it from my college dorm “day room” at the end of the hall (where the common TV set was located that was connected to early cable). The room was filled with guys.. we were all of draft age.. so that made the film all the more relevant to watch. The other similar one was “The D.I.”, a 1957 movie with “Dragnet’s” Jack Webb.. acting like a pre-war R. Lee Ermey.

    But your overall point it spot on.

    1. I had not seen it before but watched a bit of it with my better half until I had enough of the DI mentality….glad you liked the post….chuq

  4. Let’s look at your statement: “In my opinion the Right has succeeded in the division admirably and as they divide us the Dems try to counter and thus the division gets deeper and deeper…” —– Alright then! If that is true, then maybe the country would be less divided if the Dems stopped trying to “Counter” and just went about their lives leaving all the rest of us alone. If Dem “Countering” is causing the division to get deeper and deeper, then maybe the Dems should stop countering and start cooperating and compromising and letting the division heal itself.

    1. And give the Right free rein……not a equation for a strong country…..this country founded on debate and compromise….without it you have a piece of crsap that no one would like. chuq

      1. We seem to have already achieved getting a piece of crap that nobody likes. Isn’t that one of the reasons for all the infighting and cross-fighting and discontent?

    2. Where have you been for the last 25 years??? The Democrats have all but stopped “countering” and have been largely adopting Republican policies that are now considered “too lefty” for Republicans to hold anymore. (Romneycare, Cap & Trade come to mind.) The Democrats eagerly compromised their principles, but the Republicans responded by moving further right. It’s like Ali’s rope-a-dope, just without the late round comeback.

      Yes, it’s easy to confuse actual countering with the “argument theatre” of so-called “news” and so-called “political debate”. It ain’t! All that fighting shit is just for show. Professional political wrestling. Playing to an audience they hope to get donations from.

      We live in a culture where everything is combat driven. Perpetual War, the Interwebs, Real Housewives of Boise…everything is framed in a “life & death battle that will decide everything”. Even if it isn’t. What it’s done is turn the viewers into Mike Vick’s dogs, eager to rip each other apart.

      1. Well Hello there, Sedate Me. Nice to hear from you again! Your perspective on events is intriguing and I am so glad you shared them. As to your question about where I have been for the past 25 years, let me just say, “I have been in the process of retiring and laying back and divesting myself of all the responsibilities I had amassed over the years, making sure I can live comfortably on income from diverse and widespread interests and generally disappear from public view.”

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