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Tribalism Is Anti-American


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National Review

Succumbing to the all-too-human urge to hate for the sake of hating, to belong for the sake of belonging, stands in opposition to the Founders’ ideals.

Thomas Koenig

July 24, 2021

What sets America apart?

Liberty, equality, and all of our liberal democratic ideals are core to who we are as Americans, but they are downstream from what truly differentiated the United States of America from all that had preceded it: As Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist No. 1, ours was a regime built on “reflection and choice” rather than “accident and force.” That was exceptional, setting in motion a revolution in human affairs that extends beyond our borders and persists to this day.


The tribalism running rampant through our politics today is similarly opposed to the principles of the Revolution.

Binding ourselves so tightly to our in-group and growing so hate-filled toward the “other side” necessarily runs counter to our Founding principles — to what made us exceptional. Why? Because to some significant degree, tribalism is necessarily anti-reason, anti-intellectual. Our in-group is so just and the out-group so despicable that only knee-jerk condemnation of “them” and support for “us” will suffice. That sort of thinking walls us off from independently reasoning our way through political issues, and it is part and parcel of the intolerance, warring, and group loyalties and antagonisms that dominated the pages of human history prior to the Revolution.


Tribalism, then, is distinct from partisanship much as patriotism differs from nationalism. Uncritical love of party and country are similarly destructive, as they lead us back to the frames of thought that motivated the tribal warfare of the ancients, to the religious wars of the Middle Ages, and to the imperialism of modernity — worldviews of “us at all costs” versus a supposedly lesser “them.” The tribalism of today resides in a very old, unreflective part of the brain that the Founders worked to temper and subdue through the power of reason and debate. Giving in to the all-too-human urge to hate for the sake of hating, to belong for the sake of belonging, is un-American and stands in direct opposition to our Founding ideals.


So, are we up to the task of self-government? Can we persist in being exceptional? The answer to this pivotal question will ultimately hinge on whether we prove capable of rediscovering the virtues of “reflection and choice” and resist the urge to allow tribal urges and “accident and force” to forge our political future.


From The Comments

Want to Win Again

39 minutes ago


For many, political conversation is no longer a discussion and debate of specific issues on their merits.

It is trying to identify, on as few words as possible, what tribe you are in, and then wholly and rabidly rejecting or embracing one accordingly.


Want to see Tribalism in Action?

Go to TOS and post an article critical of Donald Trump.

Go to CNN/MSNBC YouTube Channel make a comment critical of that particular video.

THAT is Tribalism in action. It really has To STOP. I don't know How To Do That. Wish I did, but I don't.

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