It’s Time to End “But” Politics
There's no one problem in America, or the world. No silver bullet easy answers.
There's a sort of secondary infection inflaming most of these many problems, though, making them more painful and harder to fix than they should be. Fixing it won't fix all our problems, but it might make it possible to fix some of it.
It's clear in the way the past decade of law-making has transpired. It dogs every fair and reasonable solution, dragging it down. It takes every small crisis and turns it into the End of Everything.
I'm writing, of course, of Tribalism.
It's about time we kicked that shit--and the shitheads who make it possible--to the curb.
Everything is the End of Everything
Do you remember Merrick Garland?
President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016, and he was such a dire threat to the Republic, according to the Republicans, that Senator Mitch McConnell refused to give him a hearing, and dragged his feet through the election.
Do you remember Brett Kavanaugh?
You should, he was confirmed to the Supreme Court this week.
Democrats were dead set on preventing Kavanaugh, a dire threat to everything Democrats held dear, before there was even a whisper of sexual impropriety on his part.
Both of these confirmation catastrophes had normally reasonable and intelligent friends of mine muttering about civil war. Civil. War. Were they being hyperbolic? Oh yeah, but that's . . . not really something to joke about. That's tearing down our entire system and murdering our brothers and sisters as the only way to solve our disagreements. The only other time we've gone down that road, it was because Americans were living and dying in slavery to other Americans.
Now we're talking about it over basic disagreements of political parties. Through a happy coincidence enough, Kavanaugh and Garland both served on the DC District Court, together.
Want to take a guess how many times these two ideological opposites, these two activist judges so eager to wield their power to undercut their political opponents, agreed on the cases they judged together?
Did you guess 93% of the time? Because that's the answer.
Republicans and Democrats went to war over these nominations. Think of all the news coverage, the grandstanding, the dog and pony crap we had to endure.
After all that, if we yanked out Kavanaugh and Garland's brains and swapped them they'd both die, because we don't have the technology for that yet. But if we did have that technology, we would probably never know.
There would be cases they'd decide differently, but they'd be so far and few between that we'd all just conclude we'd very slightly misjudged (pun intended) where the men fell on the philosophical spectrum of jurisprudence.
It's almost like these were huge controversies raised primarily to energize their respective voting groups just before the election. Almost. Maybe. Almost maybe.
Like good governance to a back seat to trumped up pep rallies.
We're Not Doing This for Free; Treat Yo'Self.
You're probably listening to music right now. Imagine how good it would sound on a Polk 7.0 In-wall Surround System! Are you imagining? Wrong! Because you literally probably can't imagine.
This Whatever Season, Polk your ear-holes with the gift they deserve.
How Political Tribalism Arises and Sustains Itself
Given the level of dysfunction it creates, how does political tribalism manage to sustain itself? Why don't people revolt against it?
Well, they do, now and then. There are strong forces acting against such, though. Tribalism taps into the natural tendency of humans to divide up into teams, and to apply different standards to their own team. Both in the figurative sense, and the literal, "It's okay that he raped children because he was a really good coach," sense.
It leads to all sorts of nonsense.
We saw it in the recent Kavanaugh confirmation debacle, when the primary factor determining whether or not someone thought Ford or Kavanaugh was telling the truth was party affiliation. Followed by gender.
You know how much party affiliation or the ability pee standing up affected whether or not Kavanaugh or Ford was telling the truth? 0%.
Who was telling the truth is immaterial (to us, in this specific instance, not in the sense of the hearing and confirmation) because it tells us that tens of millions of people made that judgment based entirely on the team membership of the individuals. According to this PBS survey, 75% of each party believe whoever suits their team's goals. Which is to say, roughly three-quarters of Republicans and Democrats subsumed all the logic, reason, judgment, and intellectual capacity they possessed as humans to blind support of a political platform.
Holy shit, that's scary.
I'd rather be locked in that coffin full of scorpions from Hook than have to face the reality that poll is suggesting.
The results are a big hint to how this all spreads and entrenches itself in politics, though.
If you can get 75% of the people who identify you to blindly support you, you don't really need to worry about pesky things like facts or results.
As long as the black folks or the conservative Christians vote for you at 80+% rates, you don't really care how many of them live and die in poverty, or get lured into sexual slavery, or die in this or that drug epidemic.
Don't get me wrong, you have to say you care, but you don't have to actually do anything.
As long as you can keep enough judges on the Supreme Court to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned, you won't have to actually legislate if, when, and how abortions are legal, and be held responsible for your decisions.
The Republican's pathway to citizenship is a terrible idea, even if it's based on a Democrat's blueprint.
The Democrat's healthcare law is a socialist power-grab disaster, even if it was originally proposed by a Republican think tank.
And so on, and so on, and so on.
You don't have to deliver for your base, you just have to convince them that, however much you might suck, letting the other team win would be the end of everything they love.
I the current exemplar of the concept is the constant sarcastic Democratic refrain of everything terrible thing Trump does, "But her emails!"
Thankfully, this also provides us a hint about how to cure this social disease.*
*Yes, I know what a social disease is in the anachronistic parlance of the olden days, and I think it fits.
Are you tired of this Red vs. Blue bullshit? Say so!
Why Tribalism is so Dangerous to Functioning Democracy
End of the day, tribalism is sustained by the idea that one side is fundamentally better than the other and by perceived threat/grievance with the other tribe.
This leads to a situation where there is no advantage to solving problems. Both parties have had massive legislative power at various points in recent history. Democrats could have passed any legislation they wanted to between 2008 and 2010. Republicans have been able to pass any legislation they can coax even a handful of Democrats to support since 2016.
You'll notice their list of accomplishments (in both cases) is small. That's because people don't vote for you for solving problems. Once the problems get solved, we vote for whoever we think will solve the next problem best.
A little disloyal? Yes. The only smart way to run a government? Also yes.
So why fix problems that are motivating people to vote for you? Immigration reform? But then the people worried about citizenship might vote your opponent's superior economic policies! Legalize gay marriage? But what if gay people with basic human rights and dignity start voting based on how they feel about defense budget spending?
Fixing the things your team cares about disrupts your team, making it harder to win.
Proposing legislation that demands ridiculous concessions from your opponents so that they block it and anger your base while making it appear as if you care? Perfect!
Anyway, so what do we, in these fucking idiotically polarized-for-no-god-damned-reason times do to solve these problems?
Little changes, my friends. Little changes.
Let's start with exercising the Power of And.
But And Her Emails!"
The message here is, "Not voting for Hillary because she leaked classified information and gave foreign actors access to her email through her own incompetence and paranoia while she was Secretary of State was stupid, because look at all the stupid shit Trump is doing."
This is stupid.
Sorry, if this is you. If you did this you were stupid, and contributing to largest single problem facing America. You don't have to keep being stupid about it though.
Hillary's email problems were more than enough reason not to vote for her, all by their lonesome. So was Trump's "grab her by the pussy" comment. All. By. Themselves.
And, here's the thing about that: Neither one excuses the others.
There are 328,000,000 Americans. That's a deep, deep, well to draw from.
We don't need to choose between a bumbling sexual harassment carrot and basically Nixon, but without the penis.
Trump's sins don't absolve Clinton's, Clinton's don't absolve Trump's. We need to hold both of them accountable. And not just Trump and Clinton, but the next Trump and Clinton. We need to stop letting the people whose politics we support convince us that we should relax our standards of decency and competence for them just because we don't want the other team to score.
At it's core, tribalism relies on that, "But. . ." and it can't exist without it.
Next time someone says, "But . . ." tell them, "No, actually, the word you're looking for is and."
And not just when it's someone you disagree with. In fact, it's more important to hold the people you agree with accountable.
Will this be easy? No. But if we can band together to stop people from buying straws, we can band together to stop them from tearing the fabric of country we live in apart.
The good news is that, if enough of us start with this, it will create its own feedback loop. If one party embraces this concept broadly, and the other doesn't, long term they will have much better candidates than the other.
People their party members can vote for without making excuses. People the independents who make up the plurality of our electorate can clearly favor over the other.