How politics became our identity

Originally published at:


Ford vs Chevy.

But does that happen the other way, it is it possible that one party is political and one is tribalist?



Sure it works the other way too. It used to be that Democrats were the ones arguing for protectionism and tariffs with the argument that American workers needed to be protected from unfair foreign dumping and the Republicans were into “free trade”. Now that 45 is protectionist, those positions are reversed.


As an example, Mason says that six months ago 99 percent of Americans would have said that, of course, children should not be separated from their parents

Sure, that’s what they said. But I’m sure that 27% of them would have had no more of a problem with separating dark-skinned children from their undocumented parents 6 months ago than they do now. The only difference is that they’re now outspoken about it because the regime they support made it policy.

The resurgence of right-wing populism and the accompanying polarisation goes beyond politics to deep-seated racial bigotry and entitlement, along with large sexist and gender absolutist components. Only one party is pandering to it.


Moreover, for those who would not have supported it but now make excuses to internment camps for stolen children…it’s their choice to ignore their conscience for political expediency and I will absolutely judge them by their words and actions, not their repressed feelings.


No thanks. I don’t trust the far-right to know what good manners are.

On her first day at school Elsbeth Emmerich, a Jewish girl*, took her teacher flowers. However, her teacher, Frau Borsig, was not impressed: “Frau Borsig… threw the flowers in the bin… One thing she did like to receive from us was Heil Hitler! Every day we had to greet her, and other grown-ups, with the salute. I was used to doing this, but it still embarrassed me. On my way to school one day I went into a busy shop without making the greeting, thinking no one would notice. But a shop assistant pounced on me, saying angrily, Don’t you know the German greeting? She made me walk out and come back into the shop again, using the right greeting. I must have blushed to the roots of my long plaited hair as I held my arm out and said, Heil Hitler! in a pretend grown-up voice. Then she started talking loudly to the other customers about children’s bad manners nowadays.”

* The linked biography doesn’t mention she is Jewish


In this episode, we spend time with political scientist Lilliana Mason who discusses this in her new book, Uncivil Agreement , in which she says we actually agree about most things, and strangely, “our conflicts are over who we think we are, rather than reasoned differences of opinion.”

To have a reasoned difference of opinion, all sides have to actually be reasonable. You can’t have functional politics (that is, discussion, debate, compromise and policymaking) if all parties aren’t acting in good faith and sharing some common values and goals. Today’s politics are not a disagreement over opinion, but over the very nature of reality. It’s hard not to want to identify and be part of the tribe that, however flawed, isn’t full of delusional, genocidal monsters who see the world through the lens of conspiracy theories and outright lies. They live in a very different world where logic, reason and compassion simply don’t exist, and I have no idea how to reach them.

As Mason explains, “Our opinions can be very fluid, so fluid that if we wanted to come to a compromise we could, if there were not these pesky identities in the way. We can’t come to a compromise because our identities are making us want to take positions as far away from the other side as possible. What that means is that we are trying to look like we disagree in order to defend our identity and our sense of difference from other people.”

My opinions as to whether or not minorities and women are human beings, whether climate change is real, whether I want asbestos in my lungs, etc., are actually NOT very fluid. At all. Makes it kind of hard to compromise with Nazis and people who put corporate profit above all other concerns, including the continued survival of their own species. I don’t know about the other side, but my disagreement on basic issues like these isn’t a mask I use to fit in to my tribe, it’s personal and genuine.


I have several friends whom I have nothing in common with, politically. Some are too far left, and some are too far right. We just stick to the billion-and-a half other topics we can find common ground on.

One of the people I work for is a Reagan Republican and Trump supporter. The morning following a primary for the governorship, we both asked the other, “Did you vote in the primary?” We both said yes, and nodded at each other, then never talked about it again. Our common ground is that we believe thoroughly in exercising our right to vote. Who we vote for is less important to us, but that’s just how we stay out of the Tar Pit.



(Facsimile only - not an actual Republican)


I guess? Rank and file Dems (me) are generally open to tariffs as a tool while appreciating their dangers, while the Dem leadership is almost universally Free Trade zealots since Clinton (to know, NAFTA).

Almost all of the liberal commentary I’ve heard has been schadenfreude about GOPers having to suck protectionism and say they like it, the fact that the tariffs are going to hurt MAGA-land more than anywhere else, and watching someone preemptively losing a trade war in the stupidest way possible.


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