Friday, August 31, 2018

WaPo Making Up New Concepts of Tribalism to Claim "Trump Voters Are Wayciss"


WaPo |  You remember the photo, taken in early August, of two men at an Ohio Trump rally whose matching T-shirts read, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” (Now you can buy them online for $14.) It was a gibe that spoke to our moment. The Republican brand — as with presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney — used to be pointedly anti-Russian; Romney called Moscow our chief global enemy. In the Trump era, though, you can be a Republican Russophile for whom Vladi­mir Putin is a defender of conservative values. American politics, it has become plain, is driven less by ideological commitments than by partisan identities — less by what we think than by what we are. Identity precedes ideology.

“The Democratic Party today is divided over whether it wants to focus on the economy or identity,” the veteran strategist and pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, a man of the economy-first school, has said. But once you come to grips with the potency of partisan-identity politics, the binary falls away. So does the assumption that the great majority of Republicans who support Trump are drawn to his noxious views. (That’s the good news in the bad news.) Among candidates who led in the Republican primaries, after all, his percentage of the vote was the lowest in nearly half a century. Identity groups come to rally behind their leaders, and partisan identification wouldn’t be so stable if it didn’t allow for a great deal of ideological flexibility. That’s why rank-and-file Republicans could go from “We need to stand up to Putin!” to “Why wouldn’t we want to get along with Putin?” in the time it takes to say: Rubio’s out, Trump’s in.

What’s true of partisan allegiance is true of ideological allegiance. In research published earlier this year, political scientist Lilliana Mason conducted a national survey that determined where people stood on various hot-button issues: same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, immigration, the Affordable Care Act, the deficit. Then they were asked how they felt about spending time with liberals or conservatives. About becoming friends with one. About marrying one.