In multiple interviews following the release of his recent book about the polarization of American politics, Steve Kornacki contended that humans are “hard-wired for tribalism.” His book recognizes the 1990s and political figures such as Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich as playing significant roles in the increasing polarization of American politics. Kornacki, however, implies that the growing rift between the Republicans and Democrats simply highlighted our instinctual nature.
I find his argument plausible: that from the earliest days, humans have longed to be a part of, fight for, and be protected by a group larger than themselves. Once we determine what that group is, it becomes more likely that we will align ourselves with that group, regardless of what that group does or what evidence we are presented with going forward.
This mentality has perhaps never been more evident than it is today, and the president is someone who knows how to exploit this mindset. Donald Trump fails to grasp many essential concepts related to his current job, but one concept he has always understood and leveraged is “association.”
Explaining Support for Trump
President Trump has an 87 percent approval rating amongst Republicans, according to the latest Gallup Poll. This overwhelming support exists even after multiple whistleblowers and a transcript released by the White House revealed that the president withheld 250 million dollars of taxpayer money Congress apportioned for Ukraine to advance his own political interests. That money was to be used for defense weaponry for a U.S. ally and aspiring NATO member to protect itself against a hostile nation whose political, economic, and military interests are in direct conflict with NATO’s and our own.
How has Trump done it? How, while picking fights with NATO allies and going out of his way to appease tyrants, has he maintained the support of a party that once stood for fierce protection of the free world? How, while routinely being caught in lies and cover-ups, has he continued to carry Evangelicals who, in theory, prioritize honesty and integrity? How has he managed to keep a high favorability among social conservatives, who value modesty and “playing by the rules,” when he demonstrates arrogance daily and openly acknowledges that he breaks the rules?
He’s done it by convincing people he is on their team.
Many within the conservative community have felt bullied for years by what they consider to be the “left-leaning media.” It’s human nature to want the bully to be on your side, and with Trump, that is exactly what many Americans who felt forgotten or overlooked got.
Trump offered catchy phrases and assurances regarding immigration, religion, and Supreme Court judges that appealed to a lot of people who previously had nothing in common with the man. They liked that he spoke his mind with confidence, and often, with contempt. The truth is, however, that a bully is a threat to everyone, even when he appears to be on your side.
Our government and our democracy are in serious peril if people from both sides of the aisle cannot agree upon basic guidelines and limitations to the power that our Founding Fathers established in the Constitution.
A Day Will Come
A day will come, and it is not far off, when members of Congress who remained silent on these matters or openly supported the president will have to deal with a legacy that places them on the wrong side of history.
The same applies to voters who did not hold their legislators responsible for upholding the law and the institutions that protect us. They will have to answer to their constituents, peers, children, and themselves as to why they turned a blind eye to a man who said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Trump’s actions throughout his first term show that he believes this to be the case, and his supporters only embolden him and his rhetoric.
Republicans are totally deprived of their rights in this Impeachment Witch Hunt. No lawyers, no questions, no transparency! The good news is that the Radical Left Dems have No Case. It is all based on their Fraud and Fabrication!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2019
Republicans must remember that Trump’s reign, one way or another, will come to an end. When that day comes, what will be left of the Republican Party? Donald Trump’s act is unique to him and, in all fairness, would be difficult to replicate. He has very few, if any, core convictions. He relies upon an “in-your-face” defiant attitude that does not come easy for other candidates.
Many of the principled small-government deficit hawks have decided not to seek another term because they feel they could not win a primary in this political climate. I’m left wondering if the post-Trump Republican Party will be able to offer a viable platform for a voting base that is becoming more diverse and forward-thinking every day.
Upholding Civic Responsibility
It’s not too late. The evidence is overwhelming that this president has betrayed his oath of office to advance his own political and financial interests. Mitt Romney, Chuck Grassley, and Joni Ernst, it is incumbent upon Republican senators like you to do more than simply vote your conscience when the inevitable impeachment trial takes place. You need to be trendsetters before the trial and pave the way for your colleagues to consider their place in history and the future of their party.
The now infamous vote for military intervention in Iraq took place in 2002, and in the 2008 elections, those who voted for it paid a big price. It does not take long for politicians to be held accountable for failing to do their jobs.
A day will come, and it is very near, when all of us, both politicians and constituents, who stayed on the sidelines or openly advocated for this president will pay the price for failing to uphold our civic responsibility to this nation by holding our leaders accountable to the rule of law.
What precedent will we set for future leaders? We all have a chance to be on the right side of history and fight for this democratic republic that relies upon a system of checks and balances to curb the worst instincts of those in charge.
Humans may be tribal by nature, but at times such as these, we must resist the urge to retreat to our corner and allow abuses of power that will jeopardize the future of the American nation.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.