I came across an OpEd in The Washington Post a few days ago, the title of which intrigued me, so I read on.
People Don’t Vote for What They Want. They Vote for Who They Are.
The article, by Kwame Anthony Appiah, was interesting and well worth the read, but merely served as a springboard for the ideas that form this post. It speaks of and attempts to explain the concept of ‘identity politics’ and ‘tribalism’. Not being an anthropologist, psychologist nor philosopher, I don’t attempt to pick apart the concepts of the article. But what struck me most, I think, is the title. Is it true that we have set aside ideologies and instead vote based on … for the lack of a more apt word … tribes?
I really dislike the word ‘tribes’, for the first thing it brings to mind is killing, and the next thing it brings to mind is exclusivity. Neither are positive images. But to get to the point (yes, I saw you rolling your eyes and wondering if I actually had a point!), I question whether we … and by ‘we’ I mean all of us who are old enough to be even remotely political animals … republican, democrat or independent … have forgotten or set aside our ideology, our platforms, our very beliefs in favour of political party.
As I often do, I settled in for a conversation between me, myself and I. I, of course, pooh-pooh-ed the idea, thinking that no, the whole point is the ideology, the things that I believe are right, such as protection of the environment, global cooperation, taking care of the poor, eliminating bigotry, support of diversity, etc. But then ‘me’ popped up and asked a question that made me think:
“Isn’t everything you write these days simply a reaction to something Trump or his cronies has done? Do you look at candidates’ platforms to see what they support and whether you agree with them? Are you operating on an intellectual basis, or an emotional one?”
Doggone it … sometimes ‘me’ is smarter than I am. This reminded me of a snippet from the article …
“… political cleavages are not so much “I disagree with your views” as “I hate your stupid face.” You can be an ideologue without ideology.”
Have we devolved to “I hate your stupid face”, or were we always this way? When I voted on 08 November 2016, did I vote for Hillary Clinton, or against Donald Trump? I had studied Hillary’s platform and agreed with about 99% of it, so it wasn’t as if I were an uneducated voter, taking my opinions from some Facebook meme. But, myself asks, “Would you have voted even for Attila the Hun rather than Donald Trump?” And that is a question I cannot seem to answer.
But perhaps the answer is less important than the question. Perhaps the important thing is that we question ourselves, hold our own feet to the fire, search our own souls, as it were. I can’t say that I would have voted for Attila, but would I have voted for a lesser candidate than Hillary? Yes, I would have voted for almost anybody other than Trump. And now comes the tough question:
Did I vote against Trump because he is an arrogant and obnoxious person, or because I disliked his political ideas? In this case, I think I can answer clearly: both. But if he were the same obnoxious character he is, but had political ideas that I agreed with? Then I don’t know, and that is the question, I think, that supersedes all others in this conversation with me and myself. In that case, would I have voted for a lesser candidate who was more sophisticated, more … acceptable?
I don’t know all the answers, but my conclusion is that I think we need to be careful about falling into the trap of voting simply because a person is a democrat or republican, black or white, Christian, Muslim or atheist, or shares some other “tribal trait” that we admire. I think this was the mentality that enabled Donald Trump to win in 2016 … too many saw Hillary as “not of [their] tribe”, as being ‘other’. Why? I mean, she is white, Christian, all those things some people seem to place so much value on these days. But … she had the misfortune of being … woman. Just as I believe that the majority of the hatred toward President Obama was race-based, I believe the hatred toward Hillary was primarily gender-based. It made it easy for Trump to accuse her, unjustly, of being responsible for Benghazi, and even blaming her for her husband’s affairs, all the while screeching “Lock her up!” And the masses quickly believed, for they were only looking for an excuse to hate her, and Trump gave them one.
As you have likely figured out by now, I have no idea where I was going with this post. I started it a few nights ago, and every time I re-visit it, I realize that it lacks focus. This is simply how my mind works when it’s under duress and decides to break loose from its moorings and bounce for a bit. I can only hope that some part of this rambling post made sense.