The Partisan Gap:

Victims of Modern Day Tribal Warfare

The inevitability of conflict has long been at the core of the human experience. From the ancient nomadic sects of the Middle East to the North American Hunter gatherer tribes, history shows the need for humankind to organize into factions. This can become problematic when individuals within groups begin to develop strong loyalties to their particular group. These ‘tribes’ as I will hereafter call them, are differentiable by various characteristics including race, geographical location, and religion. All tribal behaviour can be distilled into one simple concept: the worldview of that tribe. The way people think and the things they believe have a profound effect on the way they interact with others. In short, a tribe can be defined as a group of people who think the same way. If an individual’s ideas impact them as persistently as they do, how much more can we expect group mentality to do the same?

In 100 days during the spring/summer of 1994, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandan Tutsi were killed by their fellow Hutu nationals. Since the Unification of Saudi Arabia in 1902, not a day has gone by that a Middle Eastern country has not been engaged in conflict: that’s over a century mind you, and it took place for centuries before that. World Wars, holocausts, slavery, genocide and crusades are among the worst forms which ideological tribalism can take. We also see more mundane forms of tribalism in everyday life: social clubs, school spirit and sporting organisations are totally innocent forms of tribalism in our everyday lives. One particularly vulnerable and infinitely consequential area of modern day tribalism is that of politics.

I recall a video about the “Obama-Phone Lady” (LINK BELOW) which I’ve always found very amusing. When campaigning for Barack Obama in 2012, Michelle Dowery answered a reporter in an unfortunate manner for which I’m sure she regrets to this day. When asked about her political allegiance, she unequivocally endorsed Obama solely for the fact that his administration provided free cellphones for low income and disabled people. I’m sure her support for Obama was more comprehensive than that, but her willingness to articulate any more was not apparent. When asked directly about her thoughts on Mitt Romney, her response was, and I quote: “Romney?!? He sucks!” This is an amusing example of a concerning phenomenon: the ability for groups to contest opposition predicated upon loyalty alone. Tribal loyalty can be observed on many levels of human interaction. You can find ‘Michelle Dowerys’ advocating any political party, religion, nationality or even sporting team for that matter. My father, for his passionate allegiance to The Toronto Maple Leafs, insists that The Montréal Canadiens are a terrible team regardless of their standing in the National Hockey League. (Call me a dispassionate fan, but I feel more the same the better the Leafs become.)

The two reigning tribes in North American politics are, of course, Liberals and Conservatives. In order to happily vote one way or the other, one must agree with all the ideas from either party. This is not usually the case. Partisanship has resulted in tribal warfare between left and right, leaving the majority to reluctantly choose between the two parties. 47% of Americans identify as independent voters. This means that nearly half of voters in the US do not feel strongly for either party. This fact is rarely addressed in popular media. Political pundits speak about politics as either being absolutely left or absolutely right wing. This is entirely inadequate to inform the silent majority, the partisan gap. Partisanship is simply a form of modern day tribalism.

Sensationalist media feeds the desires of its viewers, and conflict is what most effectively appeases our desires. It is conflict, argument and entertaining rhetoric for which the public most craves. The views and beliefs of the majority are no longer represented in the marketplace of ideas. If you have ever wondered why society seems so divided, partisanship is your answer. Those marginalized by left and right partisanship are those who suffer for this. I call these people The Partisan Gap.

Tribal Loyalty does not achieve unifying progress, it only exists for the progress of the tribe. When conservatives oppose legislature introduced by liberals, only for the fact that it was introduced by liberals, it is not for the benefit of the country as a whole. It is only for the benefit of conservatives. This is an undemocratic principle, especially considering parties in power were voted for. This is true when liberals do the same. For example, Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of this year (2016) and the Republican congress refused every successor put forth by President Obama. Obviously, checks and balances must be in place to challenge those in power. But Obama was elected by and for the people.  To have denied his choice was simply tribal loyalty to the Republican Party in its purest form. It does nothing for the collective, but everything for the tribe.

When left and right are at odds and reject dissenting opinions without merit, the majority are those who feel the effects most. It is due time that the partisan gap stands up and has its voice heard in the marketplace of ideas.

Obamaphone video: