Oh, tribalism. The political discourse in America right now absolutely reeks of it. It’s a steaming pile of, well, you know what.
There is not much thought that goes into such a worldview except blind allegiance to a person. It’s not as if we haven’t seen the same thing in years past. Barack Obama received undying adulation during his eight years in the White House. He was praised for every move he made, no matter if it was substantive or not.
That’s what idol worship looks like.
Now we’ve seen the same exaltation of Trump, a man whose questionable character and behavior would make his own MAGA disciples think twice about throwing their support his way but only if he was a member of that other political party. Again with the idol worship.
And then there’s another segment of the incredibly fractured electorate that’s located on the Right side of the aisle. It’s made up of those whose hatred for Trump is also a sort of blind allegiance. This time, however, that allegiance isn’t directed at a person but an anti-Trump ideal.
“Hold to that ideal and never let go! Stay strong, no matter what. Must not smile if anything good happens during Trump’s presidency. Must. Not. Give. In.”
What an exhausting way to live.
A great example of this very thing is Jennifer Rubin, the so-called conservative blogger for The Washington Post. Rubin has completely abandoned her own convictions about particular issues just because of Trump. Charles Cooke at National Review wrote about it recently.
Rubin is not the only example of this president’s remarkable talent for corrupting his detractors as well as his devotees, but she is perhaps the best one. Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene, Rubin has become precisely what she dislikes in others: a monomaniac and a bore, whose visceral dislike of her opponents has prompted her to drop the keys to her conscience into a well…If Trump likes something, Rubin doesn’t. If he does something, she opposes it. If his agenda flits into alignment with hers—as anyone’s is wont to do from time to time—she either ignores it, or finds a way to downplay it. The result is farcical and sad; a comprehensive and self-inflicted airbrushing of the mind.
Rubinism. Tribalism. Both are everywhere.
In his Sunday column at The New York Times, Ross Douthat said just that, though much better than I can.
This doesn’t mean that his presidency is succeeding, or that NeverTrumpers were wrong to oppose him; it doesn’t mean that his manifest incapacity won’t lead to some disaster; it doesn’t mean that conservatives or anyone else should be happy to have porn stars and race-baiting in the headlines; it doesn’t mean that the Trump chapter in our history won’t be remembered for hastening decline.
Trump is a dictator on Twitter, a Dear Leader in his own mind, but in the real world there is no Trumpocracy because Trump cannot even rule himself. And while real tragedy may arrive eventually, in this historical cycle a dismal sort of farce is what comes first.
Those who completely set aside clear, principled stances on important issues just to take cheap, lazy shots at Trump are closer to the man they love to hate than they’ll admit. Their own rancid tribalism is patently obvious.
On January 19th in advance of the 45th annual March for Life, I wrote about the preceding year and all of its pro-life advancements. As a former NeverEverTrumper who was committed to that through election day, I admitted that I had been wrong about the movement under this president. I am happy to have been wrong. If my allegiance had been to a man instead of a life-affirming principle, I would have denounced all that has occurred. Shockingly enough, I can praise the good that has been done while still holding the man accountable for his words and actions.
And I’ll continue to do that.
This president was never going to being all good or all bad. That this very thing needs to be uttered speaks to our binary obsessions in the world of politics.
A full twelve months after he took office, it’s evident that President Donald Trump did not usher in an American apocalypse. He is not Hitler nor is he Stalin. He is not comparable to these murderous monsters of decades past, but he is monstrous in his own way. He gives rise to bigotry and racism within his own ranks whether he gives a stamp of approval on it or not. He lowers the decorum of the highest office in the land. He is embarrassing on an international scale.
But the end is not upon us.
This is not to say that he hasn’t irrevocably damaged conservatism. His connection, however tenuous, has permanently marred it. We’ll have to answer for that in the immediate future and in the long run as well.
Despite what those who are deeply aligned against Trump believe, the end was never going to come with him. But he certainly hasn’t done much to slow its arrival.