September 13, 2008

Republicans are a tribe?

Tribe rallies for Palin-McCainI don't doubt the sincerity of the tribalistic impulse either; what I do doubt is its validity. Because to the tribe, Palin's experience, or lack of it, really doesn't matter. Her knowledge, or lack of it, about Iraq or any other issue doesn't matter. She supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" before opposing it? Doesn't matter. All that matters is that she's of the tribe, infused with the inherent tribal honesty and ethicality and common sense.

So she can necessarily be trusted to make the "right" decision in every situation. Her heart is in the right place, and because of that she'll execute the duties of the vice president—maybe even president!—capably.

This "vicarious identification and clannishness," noted a commenter on Larison's site, are "basic survival instincts that precede and sometimes conflict with enlightenment values and the prudence necessitated by personal responsibility." But it also represents a devolution, a regression, in our politics.

This instinctual approach is directly responsible for the George W. Bush years, though don't think the tribe will accept any culpability for it. For the tribe cannot be wrong; as a result, we get Mitt Romney telling the rapturous throngs at the GOP convention, "We need a change all right—change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington!" Never mind that conservatives have run Washington for the bulk of the past decade; the tribe cannot fail. If there has been failure, it is obviously the fault of the tribe's enemies.

Once you understand this mentality you understand both the enthusiasm for Palin, and why McCain picked her. His move was cynically brilliant. Let the base get excited, let them pack the rallies and donate the money and snarl at the liberals. Let the tribe put its shoulder to the wheel, for this election can now be seen as a validation of the tribe itself.
Comment:  When I saw the headline of this article, I thought it was about an Indian tribe. Has some tribe bucked the trend (Most Indians Are Democrats) and favored Republicans?

As it turns out, no. But the article is still worth discussing.

What interests me is the use of the word "tribe" to describe ideological Republicans. This is basically a slur against Indian and other indigenous tribes. Tribes weren't and aren't unified bodies of unthinking adherents. Far from it.

Most modern Indian tribes have all sorts of internal disputes. Hotly-contested tribal elections. Debates over whether to open a casino or how to share the gaming revenue. Controversies over whether to ease the membership requirements or expel dubious members.

The Hopi:  a case study

Nor is this anything new. I've read more about the Hopi of Arizona, considered one of the most traditional tribes, than any other tribe. If it were true that tribes were of one mind, the Hopi should be among the most unified.

In fact, the Hopi aren't at all unified. They live in a dozen or so autonomous villages, each with its own religious authorities. The villages' quasi-governments co-exist uneasily with the overall tribal government, which the US fostered in 1934. There are frequent disputes about whether the tribe or a village has jurisdiction over a particular matter.

As with Indians as a whole, conflicts among the Hopi are nothing new. Let's consider some highlights of Hopi history:

Hopi mythologyThe Migrations

Upon their arrival in the Fourth World, the Hopis divided and went on a series of great migrations throughout the land. ... Long the divided people wandered in groups of families, eventually forming clans named after an event or sign that a particular group received upon its journey. These clans would travel for some time as a unified community, but almost inevitably a disagreement would occur, the clan would split and each portion would go its separate way. However, as the clans traveled, they would often join together forming large groups, only to have these associations disband, and then be reformed with other clans. These alternate periods of harmonious living followed by wickedness, contention, and separation play an important part of the Hopi mythos.
Hopi Indian Tribal HistoryAll the Hopi missions seem to have led a precarious existence until 1680, when in the general Pueblo revolt of that year four resident missionaries were killed and the churches destroyed. Henceforward no attempt was made to reestablish any of the missions save that of Awatobi in 1700, which so incensed the other Hopi that they fell upon it in the night, killing many of its people and compelling its permanent abandonment.Hopi CountryOld Oraibi (Orayvi)

The 20th century was difficult for this ancient village. In 1900 it ranked as one of the largest Hopi settlements, with a population of more than 800, but dissension caused many to leave. The first major dispute occurred in 1906 between two chiefs, You-ke-oma and Tawa-quap-tewa. Instead of letting fly with bullets and arrows, the leaders staged a "push-of-war" contest. A line was cut into the mesa and the two groups stood on either side. They pushed against each other as hard as they could until Tawa-quap-tewa's group crossed the line and won. You-ke-oma, the loser, left with his faction to establish Hotevilla four miles away.
Hopis[M]odern-day concerns have split the tribe into two factions, the Traditionalists and the Progressives. Traditionalists fear the erosion of Hopi culture by white cultural influences. Progressives feel that adoption of some aspects of modern American culture is necessary if the tribe is to survive and grow economically.

In 1966 the Hopi tribal council signed a lease with Peabody Coal Company to strip mine a 25,000 acre area in the Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area. Traditionalists attempted to block the mining through the federal courts but failed; the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The complex land issues with the Navajo have led to complex relations. The Hopi elective government have fought for defense of their original reservation, while traditionalists support the Navajo families' efforts to remain on the disputed lands.
Comparing the records

Democrats are responsible for the greatest achievements of the 20th century: ending the Great Depression, Social Security and Medicare, civil rights, the space program. Democrats won the two greatest wars of the century: World War I and II. Democrats have a much better record of managing the economy.

And yet, Republicans claim that only they care about average Americans. That only they can safeguard the nation. That only they can create prosperity. None of these beliefs are rational, but Republicans believe them anyway.

In short, Republicans have an irrational aversion to liberalism. Which the dictionary defines as "a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties." They think liberalism is a disease and they're the cure.

So the people who worship Reagan, Bush, and now McCain/Palin--despite their documented lies and frauds--aren't a tribe. They're a cult:1.
a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
b. The followers of such a religion or sect.
c. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
d. The object of such devotion.

4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.
For more on the subject, see America the Conservative.

Below:  The holy messiah of the Republican cult.

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