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Political Tribalism in America: Is This Our New Religion?

Do you participate in political tribalism? Or are you part of the exhausted majority? This article will explain to you the 7 political tribes in America to include what is political tribalism and is this the new normal.

Political Tribalism – What is It? 

To understand political tribalism, it is probably best to define Tribalism first in the context of American politics. To explain, Uma Natarajan in the posting, The Rise of Tribalism in the United States has a great definition of Tribalism:

Tribes demand loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging. They’re badges of identity, not of thought. In a way, they make thinking unnecessary, because they do it for you, and may punish you if you try to do it for yourself. To get along without a tribe makes you a fool. To give an inch to the other tribe makes you a sucker.”

Uma Natarajan

So with these aspects of tribalism seeping into politics,  political identity or political tribalism is becoming just important or more important than family ties, race, or religion.

Political Tribalism
Political Tribalism

Political Tribalism is Superseding Traditional Affiliations.

Kellogg Insight has a great article on this phenomenon of Political Tribalism. It states

The point is not that the beliefs of Democrats or Republicans derive from religion, but rather that political identity in America today functions as if it is a religious identity.”

Researchers are finding that participants in Political Tribalism think that others of different political positions are foreign from themselves. Indeed, they are to be distrusted, and that they are wicked or even criminal. Further For many, political tribalism supersedes traditional ethnic and religious affiliations.

Who Are the Tribes of American Politics?  There Are 7 Tribes.

The Hidden Tribes Project identified seven distinct groups in American politics. According to the Hidden Tribes Project not all these groups participate in Political Tribalism. Specifically, just the “Wing” groups consisting of progressives on one wing and conservatives on the other wing participate in political tribalism. Moreover, these “Winger” groups consist of just 33% of the population. So the good news is that the majority of Americans, “The Exhausted Majority“, do not participate in Political Tribalism nor do they like it. To detail, below is a breakout of these seven groups (the Wingers are highlighted in CAPS) by percent of the American population.

  1. PROGRESSIVE ACTIVISTS – 8%. They are deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today. Moreover, they tend to be more secular, cosmopolitan, and highly engaged with social media.
  2. Traditional Liberals – 11%. They tend to be cautious, rational, and idealistic. Moreover, they value tolerance and compromise. Additionally, they place great faith in institutions.
  3. Passive Liberals – 15%. They tend to feel isolated from their communities. Additionally, they are insecure in their beliefs and try to avoid political conversations.
  4. The Politically Disengaged – 26%. They are untrusting, suspicious about external threats, conspiratorially minded, and pessimistic about progress. Further, they tend to be patriotic yet detached from politics.
  5. Moderates – 15%. They are engaged in their communities, well informed, and civic-minded. Additionally, their faith is often an important part of their lives. Lastly, they shy away from extremism of any sort.
  6. TRADITIONAL CONSERVATIVES – 19%. They tend to be religious, patriotic, and highly moralistic. Also, they believe deeply in personal responsibility and self-reliance.
  7. DEVOTED CONSERVATIVES – 6%. They are deeply engaged with politics and hold strident, uncompromising views.

Political Tribalism – Is this a Turning Point in America?

Maybe. Amy Chua, an author and law professor at Yale, brings out some good points in her Atlantic article, THE THREAT OF TRIBALISM. What’s more these key points highlight that America is changing in some ways and in other ways it is not. Specifically, this includes:

  • Changing Demographics and Emergence of the Online Media. Soon there will be no “white” majority, the middle class is shrinking, and the divisiveness of online media amplifies the “Wingers” who participate in Political Tribalism. Furthermore, there is a ” … seismic demographic change, which has led to predictions that whites will lose their majority status within a few decades; declining social mobility and a growing class divide; and media that reward expressions of outrage.”
  • Unique Strength of America and Its Constitution. The U.S. Constitution unites a diverse country under a banner of ideas.  Specifically the article says, “For all its flaws, the United States is uniquely equipped to unite a diverse and divided society. Alone among the world powers, America has succeeded in forging a strong group-transcending national identity without requiring its citizens to shed or suppress their subgroup identities.” To conclude, hopefully America’s strengths will restrain political tribalism.

Also, see Examples of Ideology Past to Present, Mob Mentality Examples, and Fear Mongering Examples.

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