Pity Parties

The two political parties have never liked each other, but in the past, politicians had goals, plans to be carried out. They wanted to accomplish something. Now, all Politics are Identity Politics. To play the Identity Politics game, you must be the victim. You can’t be the victim if you actually succeed in doing things.

Politicians and their minions don’t want to be successful, they want to be pitied, they want to cast blame, they want everyone to say, “Poor thing, it’s not your fault, it’s the ‘others’, the opposition, the bad people. You need laws to protect your oh-so-special interests. Let me send you some money to help.”

There’s nothing new about political victimhood and identity politics. It’s tribalism. As Robert Tracinski said in his critique of Trump supporters, Yes, the Alt-Right Are Just A Bunch of Racists:

The central theme of the Western intellectual tradition is about rising above tribalism to arrive at universal values. That’s a common theme that connects both secular and Christian traditions in the West. It was the whole distinctive idea behind the Ancient Greek revolution in thought. Philosophers like Socrates launched the Western tradition by asking probing questions that were meant to sort out which ideas and practices are based merely on historical accident and social convention, versus those that are based on universal laws of human nature.

Tribalism, by contrast, is the default state of every culture and can be found among every people in every corner of the world. There is nothing distinctively Western about it, and it runs against the whole grain of the Western intellectual tradition.

Western Intellectual tradition and Americans are traditionally pragmatic. Tribalism and perpetual victimhood are as far from pragmatic as it gets.

This article American Anger acknowledges that the problem with this election is not American anger about the economy. According to polls, Americans are relatively happy with their lives. The problem is the hatred being generated by our political tribes.

To get a sense of whether these economic factors were affecting the general mood of the nation in a way not captured by consumer sentiment, I examined one of the longest-standing measures of general happiness. Since 1972, the General Social Survey has asked people to “take things all together” and rate their level of happiness. The 40-year trend shows only modest changes — and may actually suggest a small increase in happiness in recent years.

Describing Americans’ mood as distinctively angry in 2015 elides this evidence. Americans were optimistic about the nation’s economy and generally happy — in fact, no less optimistic or happy than they had been historically.

But there was a sense in the fall and winter of 2015 of one change. Using analytic tools provided by Crimson Hexagon, I calculated the average monthly increase in the share of news articles about the 2016 election with the word “angry.” Between November 2015 and March 2016, the share of stories about angry voters increased by 200 percent.

Some evidence suggests that the ire came from politics. When asked by pollsters about trusting the government, the direction of the country, American progress or the president, Americans were gloomier than their economic assessments might have predicted.

It starts with an objective point of view, pointing out some useful and not-generally publicized facts, then quickly devolves into an identity politics-inspired whine (It’s not our fault, it’s those racist Republicans.) This tribalist whine was inspired by a poll indicating that Republicans tend not to favor making “every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means preferential treatment.”

Most Americans oppose the idea of making some more equal than others. This is supposed to be the basis of our laws. But this philosophy is in direct opposition to the tribalists.

‘American Anger’ was published by the New York Times, a paper that, by its own admission, leans liberal. The article concludes:

Democrats and Republicans like each other a lot less now than they did 60 years ago, in part because they have sorted into parties based on attitudes on race, religion and ethnicity. These attitudes and emotions have been activated in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Add to this the fact that the country is becoming less white and that nonwhites are disproportionately more likely to be Democrats, and an explanation for the anger emerges.

Bad philosophy generates bad math. Not wanting to give unequal, preferential treatment does not equal racism. Nonwhites do not equal Democrats. One poll that only claims to explain things ‘in part’ does not equal a whole conclusion.

Expect the Republicans to whine back. Expect that nothing will change until Americans start asking “Why are we paying for this?”

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in domestic politics, Politics/Foreign correspondents. Bookmark the permalink.

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