Politics

My Country or My Tribe?

The real divide in America? The Right believes the Left is wrong. The Left believes the Right is evil.

Arnold Ahlert · May 17, 2018

“Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience.” —columnist Andrew Sullivan in 2017

If one were to believe much of the Leftmedia’s take, America was a reasonable nation until Donald Trump was elected. Yet the tribalism we now call identity politics has been nurtured for decades, engendered by the change from one simple idea to another: a nation once urged to embrace assimilation in all its “melting pot” permutations became one where “celebrating our differences” was deemed the more enlightened approach.

It was a total fraud.

One that is reaching epic proportions. Did we really have a presidential candidate willing to completely dismiss millions of Americans as “deplorables” simply because they disagreed with her political philosophy, and/or disliked her personally? How do Hillary Clinton, her media allies and her legions of supporters account for the fact that many of those same deplorables voted for Barack Obama?

“Trump ran and won as, among other things, a white racial demagogue who mocked and insulted minorities on his way to the White House; while the left, as it has grown more diverse, has become accustomed to periodic spasms of hostility and mutual recrimination among its various minority groups and their white allies,” asserts columnist Paul MacDougald.

Really? A majority of Trump voters embrace racial demagoguery? And the Left’s understanding of diversity consists of sub-tribes jockeying for primacy, largely based on which one can elicit the most guilt from all the others?

Such clichéd cynicism, and the unending torrent of political correctness needed to sustain it, was as much a driver of Trump’s victory as anything else. And adding to leftist despair is the reality that Trump’s coarseness — seen as the antidote to political correctness — was not a bug but a feature of his success.

The real divide in America? The Right believes the Left is wrong. The Left believes the Right is evil.

Thus, leftists believe it is their sacred duty to impose their beliefs on the nation whether it wants them or not. And because of that sacredness, executive orders, court decisions, bureaucratic fiats and everything else that can be used to thwart the constitutional order is perfectly acceptable — when leftists do it.

Thus, a Supreme Court that usurps states’ rights and changes the 5,000-year-old definition of marriage is to be applauded. The same Court upholding an individual’s right to keep and bear arms? A travesty of justice. Barack Obama implementing DACA by executive order? Enlightened. Donald Trump demanding Congress decide the issue? Anti-immigrant bigotry.

Nor is the divide simply about differing worldviews. Many progressives themselves once had traditional beliefs regarding subjects like marriage and gender. But since they’ve “evolved,” every American must follow suit — within a progressive-defined timeline. Those who don’t? As contemptible as those who resist completely.

Imposing arbitrary timelines on societal change, no matter how worthy, virtually guarantees a tribalist response. Nonetheless, the Left remains obsessed with pushing the envelope. “Is Your Script Gender-Balanced? Try This Test” states a New York Times headline. It speaks to Hollywood screenwriter Christina Hodson’s development of gender analysis software that keeps track of how many characters are male and female, how many lines are spoken by each character, and eventually, “other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity,” as the Times puts it. “It’s a tool for people to self-police and look at unconscious bias in their own work,” Hodson insists.

More like a tool to make story-telling indistinguishable from progressive virtue-signaling.

If such tribalist-inspired nonsense were limited to Hollywood scriptwriting, it would be amusing. Yet as columnist Heather MacDonald reveals, the identity politics imposed on social science and humanities courses at America’s colleges is bleeding over into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), now seen as insufficiently “diverse.”

How does one engender sufficient levels of diversity? By eliminating meritocracy. “Medical school administrators urge admissions committees to overlook the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores of black and Hispanic student applicants and employ ‘holistic review’ in order to engineer a diverse class,” MacDonald explains.

Will Americans countenance a nation where ideological imperatives for a movie script become indistinguishable from those for an operating room?

“When civil rights shifted from punishing mandatory segregation to punishing the lack of integration, it ceased to be a movement pursuing freedom and instead became a totalitarian movement,” asserts columnist Daniel Greenfield.

That totalitarian movement has pushed millions of well-meaning Americans into tribalist enclaves, where safety becomes more important than freedom of expression. And that retreat is often justified by what many Americans perceive is a double-standard with regard to accountability. Did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians, or is a Ruling Class long used to getting its way seeking to nullify the 2016 election? Are we an exceptional nation built on an unprecedented understanding of human rights and the limits of government power, or one built on the “genocide of native people and slavery,” where the “cradle of democracy is "bulls—t,” as filmmaker Spike Lee asserts? In America today, one’s answers to such questions are more often than not determined by one’s tribal allegiance.

As Sullivan reminds us, tribalism is not necessarily a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with “unconditional pride, in our neighborhood and community; in our ethnic and social identities and their rituals; among our fellow enthusiasts,” he writes. By contrast, he warns, when it calcifies and “rivals our attachment to the nation as a whole” and “turns rival tribes into enemies” it ultimately destabilizes the nation.

Of course, Sullivan blames both sides for the divisiveness but holds the Right more accountable — or so he thinks. “One of the great attractions of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much,” he asserts.

The American Right can be blamed for a great many things with regard to tribalism. But dumbing-down public schools and colleges that routinely turn out legions of weak-thinking but well-indoctrinated social justice warriors isn’t one of them.

Is there a truce to be had? Oddly enough, the most recent Supreme Court decision striking down a federal law prohibiting sports betting epitomizes the “live and let live” federalism the Founding Fathers were prescient enough to make an integral part of governing documents. Yet federalism is only part of the equation. “Nurturing your difference or dissent from your own group is difficult; appreciating the individuality of those in other tribes is even harder,” Sullivan explains.

Individual thinking would undoubtedly be fatal for tribalism. But if the Left’s reaction to Kanye West is any indication, tribalism in America will last as long as leftists view a heckler’s veto as a reasonable substitute for debate.

It’s not. Not by a long shot.

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