Society Increasingly Tribal Due to the Left’s Identity Politics

Society Increasingly Tribal Due to the Left’s Identity Politics, by Vincent Harinam.

Modern political tribalism appears to be a vehicle for more conventional forms of tribalism. It is driven by differences of race, religion, geography, gender, and class, but is conveniently housed within the confines of a political contest. …

What’s more, the American electorate has separated into two increasingly homogenous political tribes. As Lilliana Mason points out in Uncivil Agreement, “partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity.” The Republican mega-identity is religious, middle-class, rural, and white. The Democrat mega-identity is secular, working class, urban, non-white, and gay. But perceptions about group homogeneity can clash with reality.

Take a recent study where researchers asked Americans to estimate the size of groups in each party. Respondents believed 31.7% of Democrats were members of the LGBT community. The actual number: 6.3%. As for Republicans, they believed that 38.2% earned over $250,000 per year. The actual number: 2.2%. Both parties have warped views of the other. …

As a result, Republicans and Democrats are increasingly unwilling to get married, be friends, or live beside one another. In 1960, only 5% of Republicans and 4% of Democrats disapproved of their child marrying outside their party. In 2014, 30% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats disapproved of inter-party marriage. …

Along the same lines, 63% of Republicans and 49% of Democrats report being friends primarily with those sharing their political views. Another nationally representative study found that 20% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans believe that their country would be better off if large numbers of people in the other party died.

Diversity is good, because … well, that’s what we are told:

According to Putnam, this decline in civil engagement created a laceration in American social life. Social capital had collapsed.

“Social capital refers to connections among individuals — social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.” Broadly, social capital is a civic virtue based on a general trust in others. Good will, sympathy, fellowship; these are the properties of social capital. …

And as is often the case, we choose to live beside those who look and think like us. Consider Americans’ geographical realignment following the collapse of social capital. According to political scientists Andrew Garner and Harvey Palmer, American residential neighborhoods became increasingly balkanized by “political attitudes as well as . . . race, education, and income.”

Actually, diversity is known to greatly undermine societal trust.

This drive to be amongst one’s “own people” is supported by the scientific literature. Research shows that we automatically encode three features when we meet someone for the first time: age, sex, and race. The first two make evolutionary sense. Our ancestors distinguished between old and young, and male and female for the purposes of status, reproduction, and kinship. But race is different. Our ancestors traveled by foot, and almost never encountered another tribe whose “race” differed from theirs. …

As Paul Bloom writes, sharing Kelly’s findings, “Ethiopian babies prefer to look at Ethiopian faces rather than Caucasian faces; Chinese babies prefer to look at Chinese faces rather than Caucasian or African faces.” At an early age, then, we attribute value to familiarity. We have an ingrained preference for what we easily recognize.

High levels of non-European immigration and diversity are changing western politics from a contest of ideas to a contest of tribes:

The Republican and Democratic mega-identities are a consequence of our return to an archaic tribalism which prioritizes salient features over political or civic values.

Political observers have referred to this as “identity politics,” a seemingly new phenomenon. But that’s not actually true. As Jonah Goldberg contends, “‘Identity politics’ may be a modern term, but it is an ancient idea. Embracing it is not a step forward but a retreat to the past.”

Oh dear. The left’s search for electoral advantage has led us into dangerous waters.