About Our So-Called “Tribalism”

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I’ve seen a number of people criticize what they call “tribalism” by Liberals and Conservatives. They blame our current “toxic” politics on social media and “hyperpartisan” TV shows. I think it's because of a conflict much more fundamental.

My own antipathy toward Conservatives truly began with the Presidency of George W. Bush. I disliked a lot of what Reagan and Poppy Bush did, but I could still have civil political discussions with Conservative colleagues, even though I was a Liberal. And, although I'm an atheist, I could also have polite discussions about religion with Conservative Christians, including those who called themselves “Evangelical.”

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Karl Rove changed that. With cunning insight, he calculated, correctly, that George W. Bush could be President by appealing just to the Conservative base, and to Evangelical Christians in particular. [See Karl Rove, 'The Architect', this article by Anthony R. Brunello and this book by Slater and Moore] Thus, gay marriage would be made a campaign issue. Speeches by George W. Bush would include Evangelical words and phrases. Evangelicals would see he was one of them, and that he would promote their interests.

As President of the United States, he did not disappoint them. His “faith-based initiatives” promoted services based on religion. He limited the number of stem cells available for medical research, because Evangelicals maintained that the cells had come from destroyed human lives [i.e., embryos]. He raced from a vacation in Texas to sign a law intended solely to ensure that a brain-dead patient would not have her feeding tube removed, despite her husband's wishes. He ended federal aid to overseas organizations associated with abortion services. And he declared his support for a Constitutional Amendment to preclude the recognition of same-sex marriages.

At this point, in my view, the Federal Government was indeed establishing religion, by enacting and endorsing policies which reflected the religious doctrines of Conservative Christians. Conservative Christians would have despised any government which imposed Islamic (“Sharia”) law, but they were quite pleased by the idea of the Federal government imposing their religious doctrines on abortion, marriage and end-of-life decisions. As a Southern Baptist leader reportedly said,

Well, there's no question this is the most receptive White House to our concerns and to our perspective of any White House that I've dealt with, and I've dealt with every White House from Reagan on.
***
Now we have a president who they [Southern Baptist evangelists] feel like really sees the world the way they see it, understands them, is sympathetic to them, and has an administration that understands that they are a very important part of a governing coalition for a Republican president.

The administrator of a “Jesus Camp” even presented children with a life-size cutout of George W. Bush and asked the children to speak blessings to him.

To me, these were frightening developments, pursued in violation of the First Amendment to our Constitution, which prohibits "an establishment of religion." National policies were being decided on the grounds of what Conservative Christians asserted were the wishes of their God, the rest of us be damned. The Federal government would be imposing the Conservative Christian equivalent of Sharia Law.

It's become even more entrenched under our dictator-loving President, Donald J. Trump. With his appointment of ever more Conservative judges to Federal courts, he guarantees rule by Conservative Christian doctrines for decades to come. He's actually made matters worse, by appealing also to those Conservatives with social dominance orientations, the sort who feel that anyone who’s not White, male, Christian and straight is less worthy. These are not people with whom I can have polite discussions. These are not people with whom I can make compromises. Compromising with them would mean compromising my own core beliefs and values.

Calling these conditions “tribalism” makes it sound irrational. But there truly is a division in this country, based upon opposing beliefs and values. There really is a “culture war” of sorts. Those who call themselves Conservatives want to conserve the old order, with its traditional views and hierarchies, however questionable, harmful or needlessly discriminatory. The political actions of Liberal leaders, especially in the 1960’s and 1970’s, seriously and directly threatened the old order. Then Conservatives regained power. At every chance they have used that power to take more and more measures calculated to restore the old order. Now, those of us who call ourselves Liberals or Progressives are resisting their actions. We can’t accept the re-imposition of traditional views and hierarchies which are questionable, harmful, unfair or needlessly discriminatory. It’s a conflict which may appear irrational to Centrists, but I’d call it “value-rational,” i.e., reasoned on the bases of our core personal values.

Thus, social media and partisan TV shows aren’t the cause of our “uncivil” politics. They just reflect what people want to see and hear. Our politics are uncivil because we are experiencing a profound conflict over how we believe our government should treat its citizens, and citizens of other nations.

I don’t know how or when this Era of Bad Feelings will end, but I think it’s safe to say that complaining about social media and partisan TV shows will only serve to overlook the deeper issue we face.

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I think you're right. The insults and dogma is baked in. It has turned personal from the get go. State an opinion and get flamed for whatever passes for clever in troll land.

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mimi's picture

Bullshit.

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mimi

@mimi
time on YouTube listening to Richard Haidt's explanation of left & right. There are important differences, but it is counter-productive to think in terms of right-wrong.
The 99% have all the votes we need to transform our system-- but only if we can resist the 1%'s scheme of using IdPol to divide us into warring camps. (The Narcissism of Minor Differences.)
Things were clearer in my day ('70's) when the 1% were getting us shot.
https://consortiumnews.com/2018/10/20/when-black-panthers-aligned-with-c...
I'm hoping to see a transformation of understanding here. So far with minimal success, but with the fate of the planet at risk, I'm not giving up.

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chuck utzman

TULSI 2020

Wink's picture

Karl Rove didn't start
@chuckutzman
it, but he's the one most responsible for lighting the torch that has given us Reagan x 10 with the creation of G. Dubya, which awakened an all-but-dead Christian Right that Jerry Falwell even admitted, "the Libruls have won."
Well, it was short lived. And the Christian Right has been kicking our asses unabashedly since Rove got Dubya elected on the platform of kicking Librul ass. And O'bummer did nothing to stop it.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.

TheOtherMaven's picture

@Wink

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

Wink's picture

or are pages here opening quicker??
@TheOtherMaven

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-2.1) All about building progressive media.

mimi's picture

@chuckutzman
to me that is a very bad kind of indoctrination, manipulation and emotional abuse of children.
Sorry for that. Guess I come out of another world. Evangelical Christians didn't exist in my home turf in Germany when I grew up. Today they are in Germany and mess around under the radar. I don't want them manipulate folks in my country. That's all.

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mimi

Ravensword's picture

@mimi Bayern über alles!

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I do agree that when evangelicals broke out of their self contained world they of politics as good vs. evil. There already was that, but it was like pouring gas on the proverbial fire. Right now I would say that tribalism certainly has been thee most dominate factor. The so-called resistance has on many issues been attacking Trump from the right (or refusing to believe that Obama did the same things, but with outward smoothness).

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gulfgal98's picture

in trying to make alliances across political divides on issues that we can agree on. It is our only chance to overcome the oligarchy.

The reason the oligarchy works is that we have allowed them to divide us and keep us divided. Using religious issues, social issues, or identity politics are the main ways they divide us.

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Do I hear the sound of guillotines being constructed?

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

A lot has happened to Conservative Christianity in these last 18 years. I don't think the evangelicals have near the clout they once did. The evangelicals are dying out.

It is now rural/suburban vs. urban. Trump won 84.3% of the counties in the country and lost the popular vote. Dirt has more clout than people at the moment.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

From a conversation I was having with Aspie Corner week before last:

[Opposing the censorship of Alex Jones] is not about defending Jones' freedom of speech. It's understanding what the powerful are currently doing, and the tactics they are using to do it, and to justify it to the public.

They are using every left-wing or liberal belief they can repurpose as a mask for their increasing authoritarianism and centralization of control into a tiny minority's hands. They have to revise what those left-wing beliefs are, of course, and remove any inconvenient aspects. Feminism, for instance, must have nothing to do with any material conditions except the material condition of being raped or sexually abused. All the rest, including abortion, have been wiped out. It's difficult to fathom that thirty years ago there was discussion within feminism whether capitalism itself was anti-feminist, whether a feminist society could be capitalist, whether feminism required opposition to all or most war, whether feminism necessitated a different relationship to the planet that extraction. All of that is gone. Even the anti abuse and anti-rape discourse that remains has shifted, in the sense that it is not directed solely or primarily by victims or their lawyers, but by corporate media and social media (not sure I should even make a distinction there).

Similar things have happened to anti-racist discourse. The connection between racism and money, racism and wealth, and racism and poverty are now nearly unspeakable. If you talk about the connection between racism and poverty, you are likely to have someone tell you you are a racist stereotyping black people as poor. Wall St targeted blacks and new immigrants with their "ghetto mortgages" (their phrase), yet we have Hillary Clinton saying "Breaking up the banks won't end racism, will it?" to resounding NOs and cheers. Even the power analysis of the relationship between the police and black people in this country has had the volume turned way down on it; where you once heard a lot about cops murdering and tormenting black people if you tuned into a conversation about racism, now you just hear about redneck Trump supporters and the fact that they fly the Stars and Bars and want a statue of Stonewall Jackson downtown. The fact that everyone was practically beside themselves with delight over the Black Panther movie, which had a poor Black man who grew up in Oakland and wanted a worldwide revolution against racism as THE BAD GUY and a bunch of African royalty in a magic African version of Galt's Gulch as the good guys shows exactly where liberal discourse now lies: the traditional forms of liberalism are, at this point, all of them repurposed to serve the aims of capital, the war machine, the fossil fuel extraction industries, and the police state.

This is done to make it near impossible to voice a genuinely left-wing opinion in this country, because you can either cheer on the distorted versions of left-wing beliefs and causes--which means that you're supporting the current homicidal, and indeed psychotic power structure--or you can critique those distortions--in which case, you're liable to look like you disagree with the old liberal verities about race, gender, and sexual orientation. If you choose the latter, you will be called a bigot or at least a right wing sympathizer, and some of the people who see you that way will genuinely believe it. Which is the worst of all, because it divides people of good will. The sockpuppets and trolls, especially the paid ones, can fuck off; the real damage they do does not lie in their insults but in the ways their discourse effectively sets good people at odds, making it seem that one cannot pursue the old left-wing goals AND be against bigotry of all kinds.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal @Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal without taking note of the serious changes that have been made to those ideologies, ends with being manipulated by those who have taken over, altered, and are deploying these new versions of left-wing discourse. They started doing this poisonous crap when they took over right-wing discourse (and yes, Karl Rove was a central part of that, as was Grover Norquist and Lee Atwater), but that was long ago. Their takeover of left-wing discourse happened much more recently, and it's horrible that it's working so well. They're close to permanently breaking the back of the left forever, with certain forms of social criticism, those that focus on power, being relegated to the right wing, and shut down every time they happen on the left by calling the critics in question bigots.

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

snoopydawg's picture

With his appointment of ever more Conservative judges to Federal courts, he guarantees rule by Conservative Christian doctrines for decades to come.

McConnell blocked Obama's judicial appointments which created a huge backlog of judges. Enter Trump and the federalist society who gave him a list of right wing judges to appoint. After McConnell did everything he could to make Barack a one term president you would think democrats wouldn't be anxious to appoint them. But sadly no. Schumer has let McConnell fast track them without getting anything in return for it.

Democrats did everything they could to keep Kavanaugh's history hidden from the public because they too wanted him appointed. Why else would they not have fought for Garland's hearings. Why didn't Obama?

The kids who attended Jesus camp; waving their hands and bodies for George without understanding what they were actually doing. Ugh. I hate seeing kids being used for something that they don't understand. Like the parents who drag their kids to street corners to protest abortion, gay rights and other issues that their parents don't like.

Great essay. Good point on the religious infiltration of government. Obama continued where Bush left off. Good grief. Did Barack do anything that George didn't do before him? PNAC's goals in the Middle East, extending the tax cuts, passing even more legislation that removed our rights, ....

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

k9disc's picture

of the well by Gingrich.

Between the 2 we were stuck between a Suit & the Pulpit, which quickly morphed into the Suited Pulpit. Hillary ate breakfast with them weekly.

There is that, then you have Bush and 911; which did lead to hideous religious creep and an excitation of the kill for christ crowd, but that was just as much a psyop as it was a political maneuver, and it could not have been done if you could not have ordered a corporate logo'd gag on the Opposition - Kerry, Powder, Pelosi, Reid, Obama, Clinton, etc.

The search engine, omniscience at our fingertips, has made us rather uncomfortable not knowing things. It seems unreal to not have an answer for a question for some people. It's kind of creepy and scary.

And this breaking up of reality, of the collective unconscious, is the real dark tribal catalyst. It is what "They" are doing. It's not them that's the problem, it's that our Us are agents and servants of Them! This breaking up of reality, damage to the collective unconscious, is the underlying methodology that the binary choices for survival are to be leveraged against.

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

Lookout's picture

THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT AND THE RISE OF AMERICAN FASCISM

By -- CHRIS HEDGES
http://theocracywatch.org/chris_hedges_nov24_04.htm

Here he is on DN discussing his book on the topic
https://www.democracynow.org/2007/2/19/chris_hedges_on_american_fascists...

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”