Tribalism and the upcoming election

Wy do some Republicans stick to Trump? Because they believe the alternative is worse.

“If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies.” – Peter Wehner, “Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit Who He is”, September 4, 2020; “The Atlantic”.

According to Wehner, this statement is the reason why so many Republicans support Trump. They see the nation in danger of destruction if Biden wins. The alternate to Trump is so disastrous that all of the president’s failings and flaws diminish in importance under the threat of a national catastrophe. How this belief will play out during and after the election is a matter of deep concern.

This was the theme pushed at the Republican National Convention a few weeks ago. Opening speaker Charlie Kirk stated “This election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.” The St. Louis couple who brandished guns during a demonstration outside their home made this warning: “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

To Trump and many of his supporters, winning is paramount, no matter how it’s done. Trump has praised supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory that claim that Satan-worshipping Democrats, billionaires and Hollywood celebrities really rule the nation. He has also claimed that the actual death toll from the coronavirus is only 9,000 rather than a number nearing 190,000. The second-ranking House Republican, Steve Scalise, shared doctored videos of Biden, and then, under pressure, admitted he had done so. Trump has again and again stated that Biden wants to “defund the police”, which Biden has again and again denied. Trump’s defunding of the USPS and his open statement that mail-in ballots are fraudulent are part of his strategy.

According to Wehner, “Trump is given carte blanche by his supporters because they perceive him as their protector, transforming his ruthlessness from vice into a virtue.” This transformation is fueled by tribalism—favoring your group over other groups which are seen as threats.

For those of you who are into “What about… isms”, those on the extreme left are also guilty of tribalism. It causes people to look outward at threats rather than at themselves. Many Democrats practiced the same kind of tribalism over President Clinton’s adulteries by asserting that the ends justified the means. They made excuses for his behavior because he supported the values they favored. Tribalism is a human failing, infecting both those on the right and left.

Tribalism is caused by fear. 2020 has become the year of fear: COVID-19, the plunge of the economy, the loss of jobs, Russian election interference, the murder of unarmed Blacks by police and demonstrations, clashes, looting and burning in cities across America, wildfires and hurricanes.

President Trump has taken the strategy of blaming the Democratic governors and mayors in those states and cities where rioting and looting has been ongoing. Law and order has become his theme, although the disorder has occurred during his watch as president. Maybe one should ask, “Why then is he not stopping this situation now during his term if he claims to have the answers?”

Here’s a Sept. 9, 2020 quote from the “Philadelphia Inquirer”: “Trump’s outgoing longtime strategist, Kellyanne Conway, shouted the quiet part of Trump’s civil war strategy out loud last week when she proclaimed on national TV: ‘The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reign, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.’”

“Whether voters are happy for the war to continue and escalate, with the risk that it might cease to be a metaphor, is the biggest question on the ballot this November.” (“Republican Convention: Did Trump Save His Campaign”, from “The Week”, September 11, 2020).

Joe Biden was chosen because he is a moderate. He is not tied to the radical left, no matter how much Trump and the Republicans have tried to link them. The question is whether enough Republicans can come to their senses and vote for the common good.