The Other McCain

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

The Power of Political Tribalism

Posted on | September 27, 2021 | Comments Off on The Power of Political Tribalism

Ed McGinty is in the news again. The 72-year-old Democrat has made himself obnoxious to his neighbors in The Villages of Florida by riding around in his golf cart plastered with anti-Trump signs.

Last week, McGinty was arrested and charged with stalking after he accosted a woman at the neighborhood swimming pool who was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Joe Biden Sucks.” The details of that incident are less important than what Ed McGinty’s obnoxiousness teaches us about political tribalism. If you’re looking for a way to explain why a grown man would act the way that McGinty does, it was revealed in a Washington Post profile last year which mentioned that McGinty, a retired real estate broker and Philadelphia native, “has always been a Democrat, just like his parents before him.”

In other words, McGinty inherited his partisan loyalty to the Democratic Party and, until he moved to The Villages a few years ago, he had lived inside a bubble where such loyalty was commonplace, especially among Irish Catholics like himself. In 1960, when young Ed was 11, America elected its first Irish Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, who got 68% of the vote in Philadelphia. For the son of an Irish Catholic family in Philadelphia in those days, being a Democrat was as natural — just “the way things were” — as it was for me, growing up in Georgia during the “Solid South” days when there was no Republican Party to speak of in the state. (Kennedy got 69% of the vote in Douglas County, where I was a 1-year-old at the time.) I remained a Democratic Party loyalist until the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton’s policies (particularly the so-called “assault weapons” ban) drove me out of the party. Probably I was like a lot of my fellow Georgians during that era. We had remained loyal Democrats until Clinton’s presidency convinced us that the party no longer shared our values, and that our loyalty was not reciprocated.

It’s difficult to believe that someone like Ed McGinty, who proudly boasts of his Catholicism and mentions attending Cardinal Dougherty High School, never reconsidered his political loyalty, given how the Democratic Party has gone all-in for abortion since 1972. But recall that he’s from Philadelphia, which went for Obama by 83% in 2008 and 85% in 2012, and which went for Hillary Clinton by 83% in 2016. In communities where partisan affiliation is so one-sided, dissent is seldom heard, and is viewed as disloyalty to the community. This is why, for example, black Republicans are so rare — more than 90% of black people vote Democrat, and a black person who speaks out against the party’s liberal agenda is denounced as a traitorous “Uncle Tom” sellout.

The Villages is in Sumter County, Florida, which is not quite as solidly Republican in the way Philadelphia is solidly Democrat. However, 68% of voters in Sumter County voted to reelect Donald Trump, and probably the percentage was even higher in The Villages, an affluent (and nearly all-white) retirement community. Somehow, Ed McGinty can’t figure out why anyone would vote Republican, so he plasters his golf cart with signs denouncing his Republican neighbors as “racist,” etc.:

“I’m proud that I’m standing up for what’s right,” he said. “There’s never been a doubt in my mind that what I’m doing is right.”

Never a doubt in his mind, you see. That’s what tribalism looks like.



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