Conned Americans Suffer Tribalism

Tribalism divides us

Tribalism sounds like a scourge out of ancient history. It’s alive and well, dwelling among all of us in every American community.

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Thomas Koenig, writing for the National Review, tells us Tribalism Is Anti-American. He writes:

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.

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.

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.

Tribalism is narcissistic

David Brooks, in his book The Second Mountain, discusses tribalism:

Tribalism … is connection based on mutual hatred. Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on common foe. Tribalism is always erecting boundaries and creating friend/enemy distinctions. The tribal mentality is a warrior mentality based on scarcity: Life is a battle for scarce resources and it’s always us versus them, zero-sum. The ends justify the means. Politics is war. Ideas are combat. It’s kill or be killed. Mistrust is the tribalist worldview. Tribalism is community for lonely narcissists.

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Tribalism and being conned is common

Tribalism is common. And, if I may, it’s easy to become a member. The reason is largely because being conned into a tribe is part of our human nature. We are all conned (read: tricked, subject of a ruse, or simply misinformed) at one time or another, often enduring a con over a lifetime. We don’t realize it and easily fall victim to a con’s consequence: Tribalism.

You don’t think you’ve been conned? Consider a few examples:

  1. Believing in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy
  2. Purchasing something you thought you needed or wanted (but didn’t)
  3. Entering a relationship that later fell apart
  4. Taking a job that did not meet your expectations

The list of examples is long and none of us escape the reach of a tantalizing ruse or fantasy. We are all conned because we’re human. It’s one of the reasons we need to always be aware of the information we take in, the logic we exercise, and the conclusions we support. It’s a call for critical thinking. It’s also reason to be kind when misinformation causes such grand confusion.

Presidential elections suffer because of tribalism

Many are confused (conned) into thinking the electoral college is unfair, antiquated, or even undemocratic. The truth is that we burden the electoral college with a winner-takes-all (WTA) approach that hobbles election outcomes. It’s like putting training wheels on a bicycle and then wonder why we maneuver so poorly. We know we can do better.

Equal Voice Voting (EVV) removes the WTA limitation (those training wheels) and permits presidential election voting results to be honest and fair and reflective of popular voting results on a state-by-state basis.

It doesn’t take a tribe to know the truth.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team