One of the most interesting perspectives in politics today is watching people get bent out of shape over ultimately trivial matters, only to turn around and excuse it when someone on their side of the argument does it. This phenomenon has a name: hypocrisy. But Leftists have given it another name: tribalism. And as you might expect, tribalism isn’t a good thing to them.
In today’s team-based political mentality, tribalism isn’t unusual. If you’re a Republican, you want Republicans to win. If you’re a Democrat, you want Democrats to win. So, why is it now frowned upon by the Left? Let’s find out!
What the Left thinks it means – Republicans and conservatives simple-mindedly believing the same things, promoting the same ideas, and quoting the same sources to promote their ideology
What it really means – substituting party line thinking for actual thought
Sociologists (or at least the ones I could stay awake listening to) have long stated humans have an inborn desire to be part of and accepted by a group. That sense of belonging is fine and all, but it can lead to another phenomenon called “groupthink.” Basically, that’s when you go along with the crowd because you want to continue fitting in, even if what the crowd says absolutely sucks. I call it the Sanjaya Effect. “American Idol” fans know who I’m talking about, and for once it’s not Shaft. (And, yes, we can dig it.) The Sanjaya Effect made millions of people vote for an okay singer because everyone else they knew was doing it.
And that’s where tribalism comes into play. Once we become invested in a group, we want to defend it against those who would mean it harm. This plays out in our minds in several ways, ranging from the logical (protect the clan) to the social (more people will like me) to the personal (I feel good about myself) to the sexual (chicks dig it). In a political framework, the same concepts apply (defend our ideology, more people will like me, I’ll get noticed and appreciated, chicks dig it). At its core, tribalism is primitive and driven by instinct and/or emotion.
Which begs the question of why the Left would be against tribalism, given the emotional spectrum is their playground. The answer, oddly enough, involves their feelings of self-worth. Leftists always like to think they’re the smartest people in the room and are above the kind of visceral reactions they claim to see from the Right. That gives them a blind spot when it comes to looking at what they do on a regular basis.
Here’s a prime example. Recently on MSNBC, host Nicole Wallace said, “There isn’t a strain of racism on the left.” Ah, but that ignores a litany of blatant and covert racism, mainly blaming whites for all the evil in the world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t maligning a group of people based on skin color…racism? Why, yes…yes it is!
To make the claim the Left has no racism while finding racism under every rock on the Right is pure tribalism, not to mention utterly delusional. Granted, it was said on MSNBC, which is pretty much Tribalism Central on the Left, but the point remains. The fact Wallace couldn’t find a single racist in a group where race is one of their primary talking points shows one of the major dangers of tribalism: it forces you to rationalize behavior you wouldn’t stand for normally because of who acted. Maybe I’m just old fashioned (or just old for that matter), but I grew up believing wrong is wrong, no matter who does it. The Ku Klux Klan is just as racist as the Black Panthers, white nationalists are just as bad as black separatists, and the Westboro Baptist Church and radical members of the gay rights movement are singing from the same hymnals. They just don’t know it yet because of tribalism.
I will admit I used to be tribalistic when I was younger, mainly because I was young, immature, and a dumbass a good chunk of the time. Eventually, I got to a point where I couldn’t keep justifying bad behavior on one side while blasting it on the other. I’d rather be hated for being honest than loved for being dishonest. I’ve seen too many otherwise good people get caught up in the moment and go along to get along without considering there might be a different course to take. There’s a rule of thumb I live by: if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right, and you have no obligation to ignore your instincts because everyone else decides to do what you feel is wrong. You do, however, have an obligation to yourself to be an individual, think freely, speak freely, and above all else live the life you want to live irrespective of the whims of the crowd. If they aren’t paying your bills, they have no say in your life unless you let them.
So, reject tribalism when you can. Question authority, even the authority you trust. Reevaluate your ideas and arguments to make sure you’re getting the full picture, and don’t be afraid to adjust them as needed. The worst that will happen is you come away with a broader perspective and maybe make a friend or two along the way.
Plus, you won’t be stuck with a whataboutism defense. But more on that another time…