There’s a compelling reason the left is so invested in tribal politics: Tribalism is powerful. There’s an equally compelling reason the left is so fanatical in denouncing tribal politics on the right: Tribalism is powerful.
Maintaining an effective weapon denied to your enemies is one of the surest paths to staying out of future Chinese museum exhibits. That means what works is definitely reprehensible for the other guy. Winning wars, be they military or cultural, is a far more elegant experience when not adulterated by fairness or consistency. The left understands this plainly, and thus it is why its generals so jealously guard the tribal franchise. In contrast, making sure the people who hate you enjoy equal armaments is strictly the doctrine of principled conservatives. If only Ulysses Grant had been so scrupulous then as to provide Robert Lee with half his repeating rifles and conscripted immigrants, a great deal of our current miseries may have been avoided.
Taking advantage of a tool that works while shrieking about malice and perfidy at the prospect of your opponent doing the same is more than age-old hypocrisy, it’s age-old tactics. This is the lesson that seems obvious to most third-graders and me, but remains entirely concealed to well-compensated adults on the mainstream right.
I was contemplating this point upon noticing a recent article at Vox. Now I read the red dailies like Vox, Salon, and Buzzfeed about as frequently as I count the cashews in my stool. Though the linked piece popped up while perusing one of the rotting legacy Internet portals, and I was baited into a click.
The topic of the essay was identity politics—that is to say tribal politics—and why those on the left who would eschew them are wrong. And for the first time ever at such a site, I thought the author was absolutely correct. Of course his premise was flawed in that antipathy for white people, white culture, and white nation-states is the modern left. There is simply no other adhesive holding its many disparate factions together. So telling the left to not be anti-white is telling it to not be. And taking away what moves and motivates its foot soldiers is hardly a better idea.
But since the author was little inclined to such candid and concise statements, he instead ruthlessly assaulted the keyboard in producing gaseous rationalizations for why it’s right when we do it.
Ok, fine. Officers can’t very well reveal everything to the grunts. And both need to believe their cause is bathed in righteousness. As the article concluded in defense of a moral and virtuous one-sided tribalism…
Instead, liberalism is at its strongest when its advocates understand that justice for each group is essential to achieving justice for all.
People crave universalist pretensions for their particularist ambitions. Although once terms are stripped of their noble veneer, the actual strategy being articulated becomes a bit more squalid. See diversity means kicking the people you hate out of their home. And justice means eating what you find in the pantry. Which leaves us with the timeless plunderer’s appeal: Each group taking from them together is essential to us taking all. And we completely oppose homeowner hate groups!
And that’s why identify politics is forever secure in its liberal home.