Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Problem with Political Tribalism

Perhaps I just haven't experienced enough elections, but the current political dynamics seem to represent a special kind of awful that hasn't been seen in some time. Donald Trump is the face of this steady descent from civility towards fascism, but we have been careful to note that he did not create the extreme political movement he's now leading. Rather, he's just the first person to effectively harness and shine a light on the deeply nationalist right.

A new article at NPR takes a closer look at the Trump phenomenon by considering recent opinion polls of the American people. In addition to noting that 56% of American people think that "Islam is at odds with US values", the article explains the odd nature of today's partisanship. Even though the ideas of both parties align well on many issues, people are increasingly loyal to their party today and distrustful of the opposing party. And since it's not really about ideas, it's difficult to break down.

This seems to shine a light on the unfortunate state of our politics. When legitimate refutations are made regarding statements from Donald Trump, his supporters simply dismiss this as a partisan attack by the liberal media. This seems to be more pronounced on the Republican side, but it happens everywhere. The popular framing of the Hillary Benghazi scandal was that Republicans were just using it as a political tool, and of course, the Republican antics helped further that narrative by focusing on the wrong details. But that doesn't change the fact Benghazi really was a disaster, as we discussed previously. The same could be said about Bernie supporters. Okay, he supports the profligate waste of money that is the F-35 because it creates jobs in his district, but he's still the one who's going to fight against crony capitalism! Are these people serious?

Essentially, we could think of the major political parties as two football teams. I'm a fan of the Miami Dolphins, and I always have been. How or why I became a fan is not important (I chose them based on color when I was 4, if you must know); the point is that that's how I identify. And this identity is not susceptible to rational persuasive arguments. Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Tannehill, you say? Well that's just because you're a stupid Patriots fan, and I don't care what you think. So it is with politics. You say Trump made up that thing about a bunch of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey. That's just because you're a liberal and want to attack him. It's easy to see how this thinking works.

While this sort of mentality is totally okay when it's applied to sports teams, it's perfectly terrible when it's applied to politics. When we care more about a party or a candidate than we do about facts and ideas, we end up with Trump and Clinton. And nobody should want that.

Here's the link to the article:

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