Sorry to have not written anything in a while. I've just been swamped and for most of the past week my internet connection has been unpredictably up and down. Now that I've got a shiny new cable modem things should get better.
One of the things I've wanted to write about for a while is whether or not politics and our public discourse in general is just tribalism. By that I mean that people associate themselves with either Republicans or Democrats and have an emotional stake in that decision. After a while, it becomes about maintaining that identity and keeping power away from the other side, rather than thinking about the issues and trying to come up to the best solution to a problem.
Of course, as soon as I started thinking of this post, Dispatches from the Culture Wars said it better than I ever could. Here he's talking about a blog getting tagged as left or right:
...down with dualism. The whole point of such dichotomies is to avoid having to think. If you can just put that "liberal" or "conservative" label on someone, you can know whether to dismiss them or not. If you're intellectually lazy, that is. If you're capable of rational thinking, you know that labeling an argument does not defeat the argument and that you actually have to examine the logic of the argument and whether it explains the evidence or not.
I think that is the emotional root of why people respond so virulently to such [separation of church and state] cases, because in their mind religion is primarily a form of tribalism - those who agree with you are "Us" and those who don't are "Them." The moment you buck the majority, you are immediately placed in the "Them" category and the basic tribalism instinct kicks in; they truly do see themselves as protecting the in-group from the barbarian hordes at the door.
I've noticed this while hanging out over at Illinipundit. Commenters there are quick to start ridiculing their opponents as traitors, Marxists, socialists, anti-troop, illiterate, stupid (I'm looking at you, JB), and so forth. It quickly stops being about analyzing the issue or even trying to have a discussion, and becomes about attacking the ideological enemy.
In one of the debates, every single Republican Presidential candidate said that evolution was wrong. I really have a hard time believing that these presumably well-educated and reasonably smart guys, every one, thinks that biologists, cosmologists, and astrophysicists are wrong about their own field of study. It's the same thing when Bush said he would never appoint anyone to the Supreme Court that could approve of the Dred Scott decision. Come on, does he really think that there are a lot of Supreme-Court-quality lawyers that support slavery? No, this was a coded message about Roe. Both of these things were a way for the candidate to say to his followers, "Here I am. I'm one of you. I'm one of the tribe. Trust me."