“…an environment that’s not just polarized but tribal…”

The modern Republican party has become so severely dysfunctional that it is destroying the body politic.

From a discussion by Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein at U.C. Berkeley on May 18, 2012:

Norm Ornstein: And let me just add, in a personal note, Tom and I have had great success as partners and collaborators in a whole host of areas over four decades, in part because we have built a reputation as straight-forward, non-partisan, no axes to grind, plain and straight. We have had friendships and relationships on both sides of the aisle. We have had lots of them and a lot of access.

And this is going to change things for us.

We are talking a very firm and direct stand that’s going to make it harder, in an environment that’s not just polarized but tribal now.

And I think a good part of the problem is that one side [, the Republican party,] is really trying to encourage that tribalism and make it and us versus them and make it an existential fight. Communicating with different audiences—something that we have actually been able to do pretty well, we could talk to audiences of all different colorations—is going to be harder now because we are going to be seen as having taken a side.

And we’d say we are not taking a side.

We don’t want a Republican Party that disappears or that just gets crashed into the dust.

The system doesn’t operate if it doesn’t have vibrant parties that can compete with different world views and butting heads. But it cannnot operate if you don’t have something the way the framers designed it, where you can deliberate and reach conclusions to make social change that almost inevitably means dislocation and change for people that will be accepted as legitimate. And that requires building bridges and finding common ground. And that’s not happening now.

And then there are the Democrats…

Norm Ornstein: It’s almost like you are in a religion [when you are a Republican]. You look at misbehavior on the part of the leaders of that religion, and you are shocked and dismayed, but you are not leaving your religion. And you are still going to go to church: you just can’t give up something that you held in a lifelong way.

I think Democrats are just different in that front. They don’t have the same discipline. I see even some of it outside. You get a talking point that gets distributed. Now, for example, we can’t meet anybody in or out of office who doesn’t say: “Well, what do you say about the Senate not passing a budget resolution for three years?” They picked up on a talking point. It’s a phony talking point. But it’s a talking pointit’s. It’s not like they have a phone call every morning where everybody dials in and they are given marching orders. It’s just there and they pick up on it.

By contrast Democrats are all over the map.

No better example of this than the recent recall elections.  Republicans were a disciplined front while the Democrats were fragmented and all over the map.  I find it ironic that the Republicans talk about individuality yet behave in such lockstep fashion where Democrats, so often accused by the wingnuts of being socialists are so incapable of cementing a message.  Wouldn’t you expect socialists to marchin lockstep (a la North Korea, China or the USSR?)  Once again, this inversion of perception and reality reveals much about the state of our political discourse.  The reality is, the Democratic party is much more the party of individualism and idiosyncrasy, whereas the modern Republican party will ostracize any hint of non-conformity.

But this is the chilling bit…

Unknown Male Speaker: Thinking about this issue of cultural tribalism, looking ahead 10, 20, 30 years, in the context of these demographic changes, where do you see this headed?

Tom Mann: Run for your lives.

Unknown Female Speaker: The next book, right?

Tom Mann: We may well see a different power dynamic because of the demographic changes. But demography is not always destiny. We’ve had all kinds of books in the past suggesting that there was an emerging Republican majority or an emerging Democratic majority. Nothing is certain in this life. We keep getting push back telling us: “Well, if they are so extreme, how come they won the House and they won all those state legislatures and how come they could win everything this time?” My response to that is: “Well, let’s see if we could think about examples in history where an extreme party somehow won elections. We could all think of a couple of examples.” Perhaps over in Europe.

We should remember that Hitler didn’t emerge as a political player until after the severe austerity imposed by the German government.  It wasn’t the hyperinflation of the 1920s, but rather the deflation and depression of the 1930s that gave Hitler a forum.  The same policies advocated by the modern Republican party.


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9 thoughts on ““…an environment that’s not just polarized but tribal…”

  1. I have become so concerned about this new culture that is changing society for several years now. I see on TV these shows that promote violence, ignorance and bad behavior as amusing and a route to success. Males are still portrayed as being “manly” by being brutes and the men who are intellectuals are sad geeks. Women — well almost everyone under 35 knows who Snookie is (even Obama mentioned her and I could have cried when he did) but how many know who Debbie Wasserman Schultz is? Marissa Mayer is the 36 yr old vice pres of Google (and she’s even a hot blond) but no young women know her name. This is just very sad because it is tribal and it is getting worse. Glamorizing bullies and mocking civil behaving people is the new accepted attitude and if you don’t go along with it, well you’re just not cool.

  2. So the Republicans having a unified message – basically that Act 10 is working – is evidence of lock step statism leading, perhaps, to another Hitler? And the Democrats running from the main issue is evidence of individualism and non-conformity? Or perhaps the Pubs took on the main issue directly while the Dems recognized that Act 10 was a losing issue for them. Really Phil, if the easily observed meaning of the Wisconsin recall results don’t dawn on you, you are even more of a lost cause than I thought.

    Also, that wouldn’t be Kay of Kay’s Blue Racine lecturing us on civil behavior, would it? Now that would be rich.

    1. I don’t believe my post mentioned Act 10 or Wisconsin. It is you, not me, who is making that association. However, if the swastika fits…

    2. Also, that wouldn’t be Kay of Kay’s Blue Racine lecturing us on civil behavior, would it? Now that would be rich = bully behavior.

  3. Sure, if we don’t eat for a couple of days, don’t save for our children’s education, and we put off that utility bill this month we will have enough money to pay the rent–and even go to the movies this week end. That’s the logic of Act 10 which our Republican friends embrace. Sure, cuts work in the short term but devastate any hope for communal or long term planning. That’s OK, though, the corporations will take care of us, right?

  4. yes, Denis, it’s that Kay. correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t remember ever being a bully towards you. On the other hand, I don’t remember specifically inviting you to leave comments either…….so maybe it’s you who was a a bit more the bully than me?

  5. Kay…wouldn’t you say making the comment “she’s even a hot blond” just perpetuates the problem you are fighting against?

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