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January 16, 2014

With Friends Like These....

Matt Lewis makes the case for tribalism in politics:

“If there were a fervent ideological foundation,” Limbaugh said, “if there was a substantive reason of believing in Governor Christie, then whether he lied wouldn’t matter. They’d [conservatives] be out there defending him left and right just to make sure the Democrats don’t get away with this.”

It may sound unseemly, but Limbaugh, I suspect, is absolutely correct. At the macro level, tribalism might be bad for society. But at the micro level, it makes complete sense. The first thing a lot of people do when they go to prison is join a gang (as the son of a prison guard, a disproportionate number of my stories relate to prisons; I suspect an accountant’s son is prone to talking about numbers). They do this for protection.

As much as we would like to pretend otherwise, politics, I suppose, isn’t terribly different. You and I need someone watching our backs when the other side tries to shank us in the courtyard. (This, of course, is one of the many forces pushing politicians to the right or the left. It’s not just about gerrymandering. Moving to the right or left is a rational decision based on the perfectly logical assumption that you may one day need protection.)

Let me give you a practical example of how this works in the relatively safe world of political journalism.

Let’s say that you develop a reputation as an intellectually honest, center-right contrarian. Your fans (to the degree someone who fits this description has “fans”) will tend to be like you, which is to say they will call em like they see em. As such, when you get into some sort of skirmish or hot water, there’s no guarantee these “free agents” will come rushing to your defense. Even if they agree with you (and there’s no guarantee they will), they aren’t likely to do anything about it. The trouble is, when you’re under attack, you don’t need intellectual honesty, you need unconditional loyalty.

It's hard to figure out why a prominent conservative talk show host would want people to see conservatives as folks who will defend a liar simply because he's "one of ours". It makes perfect sense to me that conservatives would be more inclined to defend (or simply extend the benefit of the doubt to) someone who shares their values. It seems natural to trust people who think the way you do because you understand them better (and theoretically at least, you ought to be better able to predict their actions). That kind of tribalism doesn't strike me as particularly harmful, so long as it's not carried too far.

But to admit that you'll passionately defend even a dishonest politician so long as he/she meets some sort of conservative litmus test?

What's the upside to this argument? "Elect us - we'll defend our own. Even if they're lying."

#WINNING

Posted by Cassandra at January 16, 2014 10:39 AM

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Comments

"With Friends Like These...."

who needs enemas.

Posted by: DL Sly at January 16, 2014 01:40 PM

I think the argument is a "lesser evil" type thing.

That is, *your* guy may be a scumbag who is hurting you, but *their* guy will do something much more awful. Allowing *your* guy to be eliminated, or heaven forbid, eliminating him yourself, only increases the amount of harm *their* guy does to you.

The PFC doesn't care how much of a lying adulterous theiving scumbag the LT is when the shooting starts. As horrid as the LT is, he is still better than the enemy: the LT isn't trying to shoot you.

The problem is that it assumes that *your* guy is necessary to prevent the greater evil. In a firefight, that may be true. In politics, maybe not so much. We have primaries for a reason.

But I think it's interesting that many in the Tea Party wing of the GOP fundamentally view the moderate Republicans this way (right, wrong, or indifferent). They *don't* want to defend someone they see as harmful simply because "he's the only one that can save us from the other tribe".

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 16, 2014 03:10 PM

}}} But to admit that you'll passionately defend even a dishonest politician so long as he/she meets some sort of conservative litmus test?


Not me. I won't vote for a scumbag no matter what. I might choose to NOT vote in that contest, but I won't vote FOR an ambulatory humaniform container of excreta -- the letter doesn't matter.

OTOH -- I would seriously consider voting for Joe Lieberman. Though I don''t believe in his politics, I at least appreciate the fact that, despite the fact that it almost cost him re-election, he stood his ground on Iraq years ago.

A politician who stands for something... What a concept!

Posted by: OBloodyHell, Yeah, lost your link... at January 16, 2014 04:34 PM

OBH!!!! :)

We've missed you!

I agree on Joe Lieberman. I think he's basically a good man, basically honest and willing to buck his party and the conventional wisdom. That's a rare quality in a politician.

I'd mention one on our side, but I can't duck the rotten veggies fast enough with my hair on fire :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 04:43 PM

Yu-Ain:

You make about as good a case as can be made for the tribalism approach to politics. And I especially agree with this:

I think it's interesting that many in the Tea Party wing of the GOP fundamentally view the moderate Republicans this way (right, wrong, or indifferent). They *don't* want to defend someone they see as harmful simply because "he's the only one that can save us from the other tribe".

As someone who considers herself a moderate Rethug (and has ALWAYS been rather proud of this long before the Tea Party types starting fulminating against loyal conservative voters like me), I can't help but wonder how much better off we'd have been with Romney in the White House instead of President "I've Got a Pen and a Phone and an Army of Drones".

Nose. Face. Some disassembly required.

I know a lot of you disagree with me on this, but it's what I think.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 04:49 PM

First, sit down.
No, seriously, sit down.
Are you sitting?
K.
I agree completely with everything you just said.
Well, except that last line...up until the comma...
Sorry I don't have the fainting couch, Mr. DeBille took it with him to where ever he's flying his fiddly-bits these days.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 16, 2014 05:04 PM

I can't help but wonder how much better off we'd have been with Romney in the White House instead of President "I've Got a Pen and a Phone and an Army of Drones".

I don't wonder at all.

And it does demonstrate that rank naked tribalism no matter how bad you think *your* guys is *can* produce a better result. But that can burn your tuckus, too. Both options are not without risk.

So on the one had, I think one shouldn't support a bastard just because he's *your* bastard, but I can see the value of it as well.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 16, 2014 05:16 PM

I agree completely with everything you just said.

[[THUD!!!!]] :)

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 05:36 PM

...it does demonstrate that rank naked tribalism no matter how bad you think *your* guys is *can* produce a better result

I suspect a lot of Dems are regretting their votes in 2012. At least one of our dear friends is (lifelong Dem). Oh well :) That's water under the bridge.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 05:41 PM

Hey! I could be fun.

Try me!

Posted by: Nekkid Tribalism at January 16, 2014 05:42 PM

As it regards Christie, my take is that this demonstrates why big gov't is bad. No matter what party is in power, the apparatus of gov't can be used as a weapon against the people.

And that's exactly what it was. We should make make no excuses for that. But to Christie's credit, he has accepted ownership and blame. He didn't once excuse it away as "something I read about in the papers just like you" or "I didn't know". He straight up fired the person who orchestrated it.

I don't care for Christie, I'm not a fan of many of his policies. But he's handled himself better than Obama ever has over a scandal.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 16, 2014 05:49 PM

That's about where I come down on this one.

It continues to amaze me that Obama can repeatedly say "But I had no IDEA what my subordinates were doing!" and that is accepted as the Gospel.

But somehow, Chris Christie actually takes action and fires the offending staffer and we're delving into his psychological motives and the thorny question of HOW COULD THIS SORT OF THING EVEN HAPPEN -- IT MUST MEAN HE CREATED A CLIMATE WHERE HIS STAFFERS THOUGHT IT WAS OK!.

I'm actually quite sympathetic to that argument... provided "it" has happened more than once.

As it has over and over and over again with Obama.

Christie, not so much. And it appears that the public is yawning at all the hysterical media coverage. I don't mind if the state of NJ investigates - it's their state and their business. But asking me to adopt a standard the Left has repeatedly refused to apply to Obama, Hillary, et al is a bridge too far...

Pun fully intended.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 06:28 PM

As it regards Christie, my take is that this demonstrates why big gov't is bad. No matter what party is in power, the apparatus of gov't can be used as a weapon against the people.

Well, without "big government", big states like NJ wouldn't exist. So unless we want to dismantle the 50 state system, I think it makes sense to admit that populous urban states require large governments. Under federalism, the state should decide what level of government they want (and they appear to have done so). I don't think that level of govt. is inappropriate, but even if I did I don't live in NJ.

Any government - no matter how small - will have screwups and abuses of power. On a scale of 1 to infinity, this is bad but not exactly horrifying.

Small town cops hassle people all the time - being from a small town doesn't stop them from doing some pretty bad things. And some part of government is giving people in small towns some recourse against local abuses of power.

I don't see this as a black and white issue.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 16, 2014 06:32 PM

Any government - no matter how small - will have screwups and abuses of power. On a scale of 1 to infinity, this is bad but not exactly horrifying.

Of course. But screw ups follow scale. Enemy action (which is what this was) also follows scale. While high density areas may require larger gov'ts than sparsely populated areas, it still doesn't break the rubric that gov'ts should be kept as small as possible. It's just that the limits of possibility is not universal.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at January 17, 2014 09:08 AM

Agreed :)

I will say that I think a major area of myopia on the right is a certain blindness to how much more ability local governments (even tiny ones) have to massively screw up individual's lives. But I agree with you on the larger point.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 17, 2014 09:35 AM

"[[THUD!!!!]] :)"

I said you needed to sit down. I even double checked. But did you do as I asked?
Nnnooooooo.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at January 17, 2014 01:33 PM

Howdy Cass,
Rush was a *lot* more fun when he focused on entertainment; in his case mocking the indefensible.
Your dead right about Romney; he was never my preference in primaries, but at least he's an adult on economics & foreign policy.
BTW, bridges metaphors may still be reserved for Kennedy clan . . .

Gotta disagree about the problem w/ bad local gov't vs federal. You can move away from a bad local or state gov't, and census data proves it!!!! (see Detroit, Cleveland, NY State, etc)

Hi YAG,
As a practical matter, modern electoral politics has largely boiled down to choosing the lesser of two evils. Liked Lieberman too. Actually voted for 'Scoop' Jackson for Senator.
Spot on; increasing gov't power (at any level) makes abuse of that power easier & more likely.


Very Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at January 17, 2014 07:28 PM

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