The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Democrats and Their ‘Friends’

Posted on | March 23, 2020 | No Comments

For years, conservatives have marveled at the stubbornness with which black Americans continue electing Democrats, despite the evidence that “progressive” policies are hurting the black community. This probably reflects the effectiveness of Democratic Party propaganda, which relentlessly accuses Republicans of “racism.” It also reflects the tenacity of political tribalism, a phenomenon I know quite well.

Human beings are social creatures, and the natural form of human society is the tribe — the local ethnic community, whose people are united by shared ancestry, customs and beliefs. This is a worldwide phenomenon, not unique to America, and one which long preceded the rise of modern democratic government and industrial capitalism. Thanks to advances in communication and travel, people are now more mobile, and can also share cultural products (books, music, movies, etc.) with people around the world. An American who travels overseas might see, in the streets of Kampala, Kiev or Kyoto, a teenager wearing an NFL team’s jersey, even though the locals have never played American football. This cultural transfer is not one-way, of course. The American in Milwaukee can dine on the ethnic cuisine of Mexico or Thailand and listen to the music of Korean pop groups or Jamaican reggae performers.

We now take this kind of cultural globalism for granted, but the point is that this cosmopolitan trend is very much at odds with the basic tribalism of human nature. Even the racial categories commonly used in America fail to reflect the underlying ethnic tribal reality. As was pointed out during the recent Democratic primary campaign, it is a mistake to think that California Sen. Kamala Harris is “black” in the historic sense that this term has been used in the United States. Harris is not the descendant of American slaves; in fact, none of her ancestors were American at all:

Kamala Devi Harris was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was a Tamil Indian breast-cancer scientist who immigrated to the United States from Madras, India, in 1960 to pursue a doctorate in endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). Her father, Donald Harris, is a Stanford University economics professor who emigrated from Jamaica in 1961 for graduate study in economics at UC Berkeley.

To classify this offspring of a Jamaican father and Indian mother as “black” — in the same category as the descendant of American slaves — only makes sense from a Jim Crow segregationist mentality, where the old “one-drop rule” would be applied. Yet this sort of classification is demanded by the (allegedly “progressive”) identity politics formula of the Democratic Party, which aims to employ “intersectionality” to unite a coalition of victims against the white male heterosexual oppressors, embodied and symbolized by the Republican Party.

Identity politics is an appeal to mankind’s tribal nature, an appeal with which has affected me personally. I grew up in Georgia in the era of the so-called “Solid South,” when memories of the Civil War were still fresh enough that Republican Party was anathema to white Southerners. My parents’ generation of Southerners, while willing to vote for Dwight Eisenhower as president, nonetheless elected only Democrats to state and local officers. When I was 7 years old, this fanatical loyalty to the Democratic Party resulted in the segregationist Lester Maddox being elected governor of Georgia, and I never knew a Republican personally until college. It took decades for the GOP to overcome this “Solid South” tradition of partisan loyalty to the Democrats. It was not until 1994 that I ever voted for a Republican candidate for Congress, and the Democrats actually maintained their control of the states legislatures in Georgia and Alabama into the 21st century. It was not until the 2004 election that the GOP won a majority in the Georgia General Assembly, and it was 2010 before Republicans captured the state House in Alabama.

Because of my personal familiarity with this kind of partisan tribalism, I understand the kind of social pressures that maintain Democratic solidarity in the black community. If your parents are Democrats, and your grandparents are Democrats, and all your aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters are Democrat, it takes a phenomenal individualism to resist these social influences and say, “No, I’m voting Republican.”

When we behold the desolation of so many of America’s inner-city communities, where more than 90% of the black residents vote for Democrats, we have to wonder why the disastrous results of “progressive” policies don’t cause more defections from this partisan tribalism. And yet human nature being what it is, the accusation of “racism” against Republicans is usually sufficient to keep black people voting for Democrats. Remarkably, it seems that Donald Trump — allegedly the worst “racist” in GOP history — may have done more than any of his Republican predecessors to undermine this lockstep tribal politics. The economic gains made by black people under Trump’s presidency were undeniable — the lowest African-American unemployment rate in U.S. history — before the coronavirus panic struck in the past month.

Well, what about the Chinese virus pandemic?

The Democratic fiefdom of New York City (Hillary Clinton got more than 87% of the vote in Manhattan) is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. And this deadly pandemic would have been even worse, had it not been for President Trump’s early decision to halt travel from China. Yet the partisan tribalism of New Yorkers is such that they despise Trump and will give him no credit — even though Trump himself is a New Yorker. To be a Republican is to betray one’s duty as a New Yorker, according to this tribal belief system, wherein only Democrats are “real” New Yorkers.

This reflects the same mentality by which any black person who votes Republican is accused of being a “traitor” or a “sellout.” Simply because Democrats claim to represent the interests of your particular community, you are supposed to vote Democrat, forfeiting your political independence for the sake of tribal solidarity, and ignoring whether the policies Democrats support are actually good for you or not.

New Yorkers, being affluent and favorably disposed toward internationalism — a natural attitude, considering New York’s status as one of the world’s great hubs of travel and commerce — instinctively oppose Trump’s nationalist policies. Yet when globalism put their city uniquely at risk for what Kurt Schlicter calls “Chinese Bat Soup Flu,” it turns out that our allegedly “racist” president’s willingness to ban travel from China may have saved the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

Do I expect a majority of New Yorkers to vote for Trump in November? No. Tribal prejudice does not instantly evaporate that way. What I would like to see, however, is that more Democrat voters — in New York and everywhere else — begin to examine whether their own interests (as individuals, as well as members of particular communities) are best served by their irrational sense of tribal loyalty to the Democratic Party.




 

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