I am a conservative — at least, what we used to call a conservative. I don’t think I’ve ever voted for a Democrat in my life. I’m probably as hard-core in favor of limited government, the Constitution, and the free market as anyone you’ll find on this site. I oppose government intervention in the economy in all forms, whether it’s ObamaCare distorting the health insurance market or the Fed distorting the nature of capital formation by setting interest rates. I promote the appointment of judges who adhere to constitutional principles and oppose the made-up “right” to abortion. I seek the slashing of our federal government, the wholesale elimination of most federal “departments,” and the gradual reform of entitlements to protect our children from the punishing taxation and likely economic collapse that follows a long period of fiscal irresponsibility.
But there is a growing force that endangers most of the principles I believe in. No, it’s not “the left.” It’s tribalism.
The real danger to our country is hyper-partisanship.
Think of all the stuff that “the left” does that you oppose. Maybe it’s pushing for open border policies or sanctuary cities. Maybe it’s advocating an unlimited right to kill babies at any time during (or even after!) a pregnancy. Maybe it’s advocating ruinous regulation and taxation, disastrous foreign policy, or any number of other things.
Are the people who advocate these policies hyper-partisans? Yes, they are.
Is hyper-partisanship a problem only on the left? Um, no.
Many writers at RedState have written pieces recently I admire, that either focus on or touch on the corrosive nature of increased tribalism on both sides in the era of Donald Trump and now Roy Moore. Kimberly Ross wrote New Poll About Sexual Harassment Shows How Infected The GOP Is With Tribalism in which she said: “to some, politics is all that matters. Principles need not apply.” Kimberly also wrote Isn’t It Time That We Start Policing Our Own Side? in which she encouraged readers to “[t]ake a blowtorch to the ideas that lead us down the paths of rationalization.” Jim Jamitis had a brilliant piece titled Anti-Anti-Trump Obsessives Are Every Bit As Harebrained As The Loony Left, in which he said: “If you’re employing double standards to defend your tribe, you don’t deserve my trust either—or my attention.” Joe Cunningham has warned us: “The tribalism of the Left and Right is more about gaining power than it is about doing what we feel is right.”
I could go on and on. Ben Howe has written extensively about the dangers of hyper-partisanship. Susan Wright regularly ridicules “Branch Trumpidians” — people who don’t just support Donald Trump as a distasteful but preferable alternative to Hillary Clinton, but who actively defend every aspect of his buffoonish bullying and lying. Caleb Howe has written about how Trumpism provides its adherents with “a sort of checklist of things one is supposed to think” that blinds them to an objective analysis of something like the Roy Moore allegations. I know I am leaving out others.
I couldn’t say it any better than these folks. And while Donald Trump started the ball rolling, the dangers all these writers warned about have reached peak insanity with the special election in Alabama involving Roy Moore. As Caleb Howe put it in his epic post on Roy Moore: “I’m sorry to say, it seems a great number of people in Alabama aren’t all that concerned about the accusations, even should they prove true.” And indeed, according to the Boston Globe, pastor Earl Wise “said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.” Holy hyper-partisanship, Batman! A direct quote from the pastor: “there are some 14-year-olds, who, the way they look, could pass for 20.” The governor of Alabama said she had no reason to disbelieve the women who have accused Roy Moore — but hey, vote for the Republican anyway because he is a Republican. And David Horowitz agrees, saying: “In my view Moore is guilty as accused” but vote for him anyway because Democrats.
This is sick. When we’ve reached the point where we are willing to say that, even if a man sexually molested a 14-year-old, that’s cool because we need 52 votes for feckless Republicanism and not 51, we are lost. A friend who sent an email with the pastor’s comment about 14-year-olds looking like 20-year-olds cited Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Indeed.
And of course the partisanship occurs on both sides. In a particularly shameful tweet, a woman named Kate Harding wrote that Democrats should excuse Al Franken and others who abuse women, saying: “I am sincerely arguing that we should not force a Democrat to resign for sexually abusing a woman.” Why? Because Republicans wouldn’t — and because defending them promotes the policies we like:
If you oppose tribalism of the type shown by Kate Harding, you are appalled by sentiments like this no matter whose side they appear on. But if you’re a hyper-partisan yourself, you might slam her as disgusting while ignoring similar behavior from your own side. If you’re especially fond of moral relativism and chucking over principles for naked political gain, you might even go so far as to praise her for her clear-eyed hardheadedness. (!)
Such sentiments are, in my view, repulsive, and exactly what is wrong with this country. Again, if you held your nose to select Donald Trump over Hillary, I am not talking about you. But if you’re praising the attitudes of the pastor, or David Horowitz, or Kate Harding — if you’re saying that we have to vote for the child molester FOR THE CHILDREN! — then yes, I am talking about you. You and your attitudes are the problem with society today.
And, to bring us full circle, this hyper-partisanship also causes Republicans to define their issues, not in terms of liberty, limited government, the free market, and the Constitution, but instead by whatever causes “the left” to cry those yummy yummy leftist tears. This means that a cynical campaign of incessantly starting public feuds with unlikable people can serve, in the eyes of mindless partisans, as an adequate substitute for spending cuts in an era of $20 trillion deficits. Yammering about football players taking a knee is the new hotness, while repealing ObamaCare is not worth the hard work it takes to twist arms in the U.S. Senate. We’re sacrificing more and more of the issues we claimed to care about on the altar of “fighting the left” on issues that are trivial but entertaining.
We have become a reality show culture led by a reality show president. And our kids are going to pay dearly for it.
And the reason for that isn’t “the left.” It’s the hyper-partisan forces of “the left” combined with the hyper-partisan forces of the right, joyously slinging mud and engaging in stupid pointless battles for clicks and applause and poll numbers, while the country goes to hell and our children’s future is a set of upside-down cards in a Monopoly game. (Google it, millenials.)
I, for one, am proud to join forces with my colleagues at RedState who oppose this dangerous trend. I’d like it if you stood with us as well.
UPDATE: Stand also with my colleague and wonderful guest blogger Dana, who addressed this same issue in a post that reflects my own thoughts perfectly: When Party Loyalty Begets a Collective Moral Bankruptcy. I hope to partially make up for my inexcusable failure to link that post above, by making it central to further reflections that I hope to post along these lines in the next couple of days.
[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]