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Politics Are Not the Sum of a Person

In a letter to his wife Abigail during America’s War of Independence, John Adams described the necessity of politics:

I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.

For a country fighting for independence and a man risking his life for the cause, there is little to life beyond politics of the moment. Every marginal decision is a matter of survival. But that momentary imperative is only in pursuit of higher humanistic goals.

Politics is important, but it is only a means to an end. Human flourishing, or the good life, is the proper end of social life. Government plays but a part in laying the foundation for people to flourish in society. Like Adams, we want a relatively stable and effective regime so we can be free to pursue better, more satisfying things.

Unlike Adams, we have the space and luxury of pursuing all of them today — even if the political radicals say otherwise. Family and friendship, economic prosperity, scientific and technological progress, medical advances, the arts and entertainment, and much more. There is far more to life than politics. We study it only so we don’t have to worry about it very much. We owe it to our forefathers to not allow it to overtake the finer things in life.

At the start, I should concede the irony of these words being written by a political junkie who thinks, reads, talks, and writes about the topic frequently. And, well, maybe I should write more about baseball, corn processing, and East Village dive bars. But that’s not really my point. We shouldn’t ignore politics. Politics is important, complex, interesting, and yes, often fun. We need a few people to devote most of their time to it, and most people to devote a little of their time to it. However, we should never fail to contextualize and delimit its influence on our daily lives, relationships, and society more broadly. That would be the true tragedy and is what I want to draw attention to.

There is more to a person than his or her politics

It is well-documented that politics have become more polarized in recent years. In 2016, it reached a fever pitch. To be sure, it’s not 1861. Thank God. It may not even be as bad as 1968. But these days are certainly not conducive to civility.

Pro-Trump supporters at a rally in Portland in June 2018. Photo: Andy Ngo

I’m not here concerned about ideological polarization, but rather the personal and cultural animosity that seems to be more common and more frenzied than it used to be. Everything political gets turned up to 11. Less “you’re wrong,” more “you’re a bad person.” Less listening and reading and intermingling with those of different politics, and more self-segregation.

It seems that people increasingly allow political disagreement to obfuscate friendships, business, and other personal relationships. For example, 13 percent of all Americans, and 30 percent of Democrat women in particular, reported “blocking” friends on social media due to their politics. Another poll reported 16 percent of Americans stopped talking to a “family member or close friend” because of the election.

A CNN poll found that a 31 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans have limited interactions with friends or family because of politics. In 1958, it is shown that less than a third of partisans said they would prefer their child to marry someone of the same party. Whilst today, more than 60 percent of partisans say that.

Just imagine:

“Sir, I respectfully ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

“Ok, but first tell me whom you voted for.”

What a sorry state that so many people are closing themselves off to others for such narrow reasons. To be clear, I am not admonishing hard-nosed, substantive debate. In fact, I love it. I am not even so concerned with the occasional personal dig, if it is not so out of line or disruptive. What worries me is politics sabotaging personal relationships and becoming the primary way by which people evaluate others.

Which brings me to my main point:

Politics are not the sum of a person

There is so much more by which to judge a person than his or her politics. Honesty, thoughtfulness, compassion, judgment, industriousness, prudence, self-control. Their interests, aptitudes, personality, piety, and sense of humor. Human virtue is so vital, vast, and multidimensional that it would be foolish to excessively personalize and overemphasize a person’s politics. Not to mention, most people don’t even spend more than a little time and energy considering politics, so how could it be central to their character? Most people obviously realize these things, but fewer people are acting on it. Shared experience and common ground —outside of the politics — is key to reminding people of this truth.

Photo by Scott Warman

I, a conservative, count myself lucky to have been surrounded by liberals for most of my life in Connecticut, Illinois, and New York. Among my strongest influences were my smart, left-wing teachers who debated me relentlessly in middle school and high school. The intellectual challenges they provided built me up and made me stronger over time by breaking down my beliefs in parts constantly. Similar was the influence of my liberal peers in high school and college. The clear majority of my friends today lean left politically. I am constantly inspired by the mostly-liberal teachers and administrators at the charter schools I am involved with who do God’s work every day by lifting up children in need. I could go on. It is a blessing to have all these people in my life. I would be a lesser man without their influences.

But as Americans increasingly cluster by political ideology, these fulfilling and humanizing interactions across the proverbial aisle become less common. “The big sort,” so-named by Bill Bishop, is the phenomenon of America becoming more culturally — and, consequently, politically — polarized by geography since the 1970s. In the competitive presidential election of 1976, 27 percent of Americans lived in counties with at least a 20-point margin of victory. In the competitive election of 2016, a whopping 60 percent did. To illustrate for New Yorkers, the last major-party presidential candidate to receive fewer total votes in Manhattan than Donald Trump was Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876. And yet, there is a world west of the Hudson River.

There is more to society than politics

Exacerbating the big sort is the degradation of social institutions that might otherwise bring people of different persuasions together. Not only do fewer conservatives and liberals live next to each other, but those who do share fewer bonding experiences. Participation has withered over decades in civic organizations and churches that have traditionally connected people. Robert Putnam has famously measured this:

Membership records of such diverse organizations as the PTA, the Elks club, the League of Women Voters, the Red Cross, labor unions, and even bowling leagues show that participation in many conventional voluntary associations has declined by roughly 25 percent to 50 percent over the last two to three decades…

Gallup polls report that church attendance fell by roughly 15 percent during the 1960s and has remained at that lower level ever since, while data from the National Opinion Research Center suggest that the decline continued during the 1970s and 1980s and by now amounts to roughly 30 percent.

We are now less de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and more Putnam’s Bowling Alone or Murray’s Coming Apart. And while Americans remain more civically engaged than people in most countries, the decline over time makes it harder to bring people together today.

One tail risk of these trends — political violence — need to be minded even if it is unlikely. Only 70 percent of American adults under 30 believe it is not at all justified to use violence to pursue political goals, compared to roughly 90 percent of seniors, according to the American National Election Studies. The stakes here are not insignificant.

If the micro solution to America’s divisions is to emphasize people’s virtues over their politics, the macro solution is to revive American civil society and culture outside of politics. That is obviously a complex imperative whose exploration has killed many a tree. And it should still beckon even more attention and urgency.

But I will focus on just one problem in civil society, which is the invasion of politics into nearly every crevice of our culture.

That leads to my secondary point:

Just as politics are not the sum of a person, politics is not the whole of society

Almost all meaningful human interactions, relationships, and achievements occur outside of politics — in the market economy and in civil society. Family, friendship, work, religion, charity, community, and culture are where human happiness is forged.

And, yet, we find politics trying to insert itself into more nooks of culture today. Sports, entertainment, pop culture, corporate America, and civic organizations are prime targets. College campuses are probably lost entirely to perpetual outrage. Among important and growing segments of the population, there is a metabolic urge to politicize things that have little, if any, relation to politics.

The only difference between Hollywood award shows and the Democrat National Convention is slightly more Botox. ESPN has nearly as many hot takes about social issues as sports. Silicon Valley, the NFL, NBA, and NCAA have made their politics decidedly known while other big businesses are frequently pressured to opine a certain side of a political issue — or else. Hell, journalists even scour small Indiana towns for political heterodoxies of small business proprietors. Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and others can’t do comedy without making waves for being insufficiently political. The list goes on and on.

Why is this a problem? Because these institutions bring people joy and unite them across dividing lines — like politics. The best way to build bridges is not to first focus on schisms, but on commonalities. It’s harder to hate your political opponent when you find out he roots for the same basketball team, laughs at the same comics, enjoys the same movies, consumes the same brands — all of which should be decidedly apolitical. You are more likely to empathize with them, and then — maybe — you ease into politics more civilly.

Final thoughts

The proposal for reasonable disarmament in the culture wars will go a long way solving not only problems national, but individual. There is something mentally burdensome about censoring all your personal associations by their politics. Taken to an extreme, it seems paranoid. NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff wrote about the consequences of this thinking in their essay, The Coddling of the American Mind:

A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.

If you do not care about the national effects of the alternative I have presented, I still believe you should want it for yourself and loved ones. Closing yourself off to people with whom you disagree mollycoddles in the short run and makes you intellectually weak in the long run. It would be like bodybuilding while ignoring weights. It doesn’t work.

I would not be writing this if I did not have some of the tribal urges in me, nor if I had never been guilty of acting on them before. Such inclinations are natural to most of us. As a true believer in my politics, I am susceptible to extrapolating them.

But I am also fortunate that I am not able to do that so much by virtue of my surroundings. My hope is that those who do live in ideological “bubbles” of their own persuasion won’t let that get the best of them and turn further inward. And while accomplishing that might not be an easy task, it will go a long way to creating happier people and a healthier country.


Ryan Fazio works in commodities markets while volunteering at charter schools in the New York City area. He tweets @ryanfazio.

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40 Comments

  1. Mike Walsh says

    Note the numbers; it’s mainly a Leftist behavior, for which there is ample reason. For progressivists, politics is their religion. They find their meaning in it and consequently tend to invest their egos in their opinions, thus experiencing disagreement as a personal attack. Conservatives generally have a traditional religion, which demands a degree of humility -suppression of the ego- failure to do so being sinful.

    • Bill says

      Mike,

      I respectfully disagree. I do not think it is leftist behavior because politics is their religion; although, I will concede that it may be so for many on the Left. I think it is more that anyone right-of-center has learned to adapt from 2007-2016. For those years, any vocalizing of a center-of-right or further right viewpoint exposed you to being called a racist. Disagree with something Obama said? RACIST! It couldn’t possibly be simple political disagreement (you know, right v left) it was because you had your KKK whites hanging in the closet!

      The result of 9 years of that is simply that those on the Right have learned to internalize and / or formed their modern day speak-easys. As a result, in today’s climate, the voices you hear are the Left because those speak-easys don’t make the town-square or soapbox. Being called a Nazi because you voted against Hillary is just business as usual and no longer hurts because they’ve had 9 years to formalize their practices to keep things internalized or limited to their speak-easy. I believe that is a direct cause of why all of that pre-election polling was inaccurate and why current polling is all over the map.

    • TarsTarkas says

      And because it is their religion they feel that it is their sacred duty not only to proselytize and impose their way of thinking on everyone but to ensure that all believe as they do, and if not, be made to. Which is impossible because their religion has no set beliefs but swings abruptly and violently every which way with every vaporous pronouncement by the ‘woke’ set. And woe to those true believers slow to respond to the newest politically correct edict by the prophets of intersectionality.

  2. John AD says

    “Just Imagine: ‘Sir, I respectfully ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage’ ”

    Yes, unimaginable that someone in a liberal democracy thinks that it’s not THAT part of the dialogue that is grating.

    Plus, please don’t claim that caring for the poor is God’s work. (That’s giving AIDS to African babies, ho ho)

    Interesting how in an article about tribalism in politics, the article is tribalistic e.g. emphasising that it’s the Democrats that are more prone to blocking someone of different political leanings on social media. In fact, if it is the case that there is a arc of moral progress (and it’s hard to deny given, for example, progress in women’s liberation, LGBTQ rights, even slavery), it’s nearly always the conservatives (by definition as well as empirically) who are the more resistant to the progress. In which case there is an asymmetry in who is actually in the right, and one would expect an asymmetry in disgust and therefore of blocking, (whether or not that is the strategic thing to do in order to drag the laggards with you)

    • Its not tribalistic to point out that the polling pretty clearly shows that it is progressives who behave like this. Also, I have to say you are a good example of this problem with your matter of fact talk about progressives being on the “right” side of things. What does slavery have to do with a discussion of modern conservatism? As for LGBTQ rights there is no one conservative view on gay rights for one thing. I also have found that most progressives dislike civil libertarians as well. Let me put it like this its more then you don’t think gay people should be allowed to get married I don’t want to be friends with you or you don’t think transgendered people should be allowed to use the bathroom of there choice I don’t want to be friends with you. Its you think taxes should be low so I don’t want to be friends with you. You don’t believe in wealth re-distribution I don’t want to be friends with you. You believe in the second amendment I don’t want to be friends with you. You don’t buy into catastrophic global warming I don’t want to be freinds with you. You don’t believe in socialized medicine I don’t want to be friends with you. You don’t believe in systematic racism I don’t want to be friends with you. You don’t belive in affirmative action or white privliege I don’t want to be friends with you It goes way beyond the issues you brought up basically if you don’t support the entire SJW agena you are scum to trampeled for a ridiculous percentage of progressive democrats.

      • @ Kevin Herman

        ” if you don’t support the entire SJW agena”

        There is a clear difference between being a liberal and SJW. And SJW have far more in common with the hardcore religious conservatives. Both different sides of the same coin.

        And issues themselves such as equal opportunities, civil liberties, taxation, social insurance, human rights, public health, public school, public services, labour laws and regulation of markets, etc, are not just SJW issues, as you have implied.

        • Bill says

          Welcome to what the right-of-center have endured since 2007. Per my prior post, since 2007, any non-lock-step-with-Obama viewpoint saw the reward of a racist label. What you describe is that now, any left-of-center viewpoint sees you rewarded with the SJW label.

    • Jon says

      John AD – I respectfully invite you to read ‘The Righteous Mind’ by Jonathan Haidt – and I do so as someone who identifies myself as a moderate liberal (centre-left or social democrat as we would call it here in the UK)

    • sceptical says

      In fact, one of the unfortunate symptoms of today’s tendency to introduce politics into every aspect of life is a related tendency to set up misleading historical divisions of various causes into those that are progressive and those that are conservative.

      Take slavery, for example. Support for slavery in the English-speaking was by no means always associated with the kinds of views that we now call conservative. The Tory Samuel Johnson attacked the American revolution on the grounds that it was strange to hear these cries for liberty from what he called “the drivers of Negroes.” In the 19th century, the anti-slavery cause was largely driven by – gasp – Christian evangelicals in both the US and Britain, though there was admittedly a strong Quaker presence too and they at least were and still are regarded as inherently “radical” because of their pacifism.

      In fact, !9th-century evangelicals were “progressive” in some ways by today’s standards, like fighting slavery and support for women’s right to vote, but they were rigidly moralistic and “conservative” about other matters, including alcohol consumption, sexual behaviour, theatre-going, and even dancing.

      When the labour movement and labour parties gathered strength in the Anglosphere in the late 19th century, *they* too held views that were a mixture of “conservative” and “progressive” by today’s standards. Inspired partly by their reading of Marx and partly by innate conservatism in working-class communities, they were often opposed to women’s rights (though they usually accepted votes for women, if a bit grudgingly), and were also strongly moralistic about sexual behaviour, including divorce and homosexuality.

      It’s a serious mistake to project a modern understanding of political terms into the past. Not only is it false to history, but it gives people the false impression that there has always been a group of “good guys” and “bad guys” in history and that they have always held exactly the same views as the good guys today – whoever you might think they happen to be.

      • Constantin Draghici says

        Excellent comment Sir, and one that deserves a separate companion article to the one that generated this comment thread. Cheers!

  3. A Contrarian says

    “In fact, if it is the case that there is a arc of moral progress (and it’s hard to deny given, for example, progress in women’s liberation, LGBTQ rights, even slavery)…”

    I think you might find that the average Islamist would not agree that these are examples of moral progress, according to their system of morals.

    And there is the problem with liberal progressives: a bein-pensant, unconsidered, and entirely misplaced assumption of universalism.

  4. Paul Ellis says

    In his military history of the Falklands War, ‘Razor’s Edge’, historian and ex-intelligence officer Hugh Bicheno includes an appendix called ‘Ideologies’ which provides the best and most concise summary of major contemporary political ideologies I’ve ever seen. Of Progressivism he writes:

    ‘Progressivism was a US movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to increase the power of the state and to professionalise government, associated with a belief that a self-selecting élite should weed out the less favoured through eugenics and bestow enlightenment on the remainder. Term later appropriated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to describe itself and like-minded political movements. Now the preferred alternative title used by British Social Democrats (q.v.) – but see Fabianism (q.v.)’

    And while we’re at it, of Socialism he writes:

    ‘Socialism in the absolute is an intermediate stage preparing the way for the withering away of the state in Communism (q.v.). The widespread association of the term with anti-democratic movements and totalitarian regimes led reformist socialist parties to rename themselves Social Democrats. Common to all is a commitment to socio-economic outcomes predetermined by an élite that believes itself, alone, correct-thinking, and bureaucracy-intensive redistributionist policies.’

    Spot on.

        • @ Paul Ellis

          Ah. Yes.

          Is there something wrong? The quote you pasted in might or not might not be the original author’s complete view. But as such, It is wholly misleading summary of the progressive movement.

    • Justin Notley says

      Fulton Sheen offered this taxonomy:
      “Three totalitarian systems have emphasized the importance of species rather than personality: The Nazis absorbed the person into the race. Facism absorbed the person into the state. Communism absorbed the person into a class.”

      • Paul Ellis says

        One might add to this: “Contemporary Intersectional Progressivism absorbs the person into the identity group.”

      • Paul Ellis says

        Excellent.

        Bicheno’s pithy summaries of Communism and Totalitarianism are also worth considering, in this context:

        ‘Communism is an ideal of a world without states, property, money or social classes, in which people come together voluntarily to carry out projects in response to the needs of the human community. In the wake of the Marxist-Leninist (q.v.) tyranny in the Soviet Union and similar regimes elsewhere, the term came to describe totalitarian (q.v.) regimes, in which all of human activity is subject to the unlimited coercive power of a self-selected élite.’

        ‘Totalitarianism is any philosophy that claims to have the answers to all the questions of existence and which seeks to impose that philosophy through indoctrination as well as coercion. It is distinguished from authoritarianism by its determination to control people’s thoughts as well its their actions.’

        I think we’re covering very familiar ground, here.

  5. D.B. Cooper says

    With all due respect to Mr. Fazio – who btw seems like just the sort of God fearing conservative that I’d let marry my daughter – his analysis here is not only wrong, it’s a bit slippery as well. Taken together, these three statements adequately reflect the error (read, attribution error) in his reasoning.

    “I’m not here concerned about ideological polarization, but rather the personal and cultural animosity that seems to be more common and more frenzied than it used to be…”

    Fazio thesis is self-evidently true, or at least qualitatively true. In either case, he’s right to claim that, “politics are not the sum of a person.” With that uncontested layup securely notched on his mantle, Fazio decides to extend his streak to two-in-a-row when he correctly observes that personal and cultural animosity “seems to be more common and more frenzied than it used to be.” That’s an easy enough claim to defend, Hell even Maxine Waters would promote violence to pursue political goals agree with that. Careful readers will note this is the high-water mark.

    “But as Americans increasingly cluster by political ideology, these fulfilling and humanizing interactions across the proverbial aisle become less common. ‘The big sort,’ so-named by Bill Bishop, is the phenomenon of America becoming more culturally — and, consequently, politically — polarized by geography since the 1970s…”

    Erudite commentary takes a precipitous decline at about the point where Fazio claims that Americans are clustering by political ideology. The claim isn’t so much false as it is specious. Americans do self-segregate by political ideology, but to assign political ideology as a primary impetus for the observed clustering is suspiciously reductive. Admittedly, and to his credit, Fazio does suggest that the political polarization is a consequence of increasing cultural polarization. But even that’s not entirely accurate, at least not according to the data. And I don’t mean the CNN poll data which almost assuredly had more non-sampling errors than a Donald Trump Inauguration Day head count.

    “Not only do fewer conservatives and liberals live next to each other, but those who do share fewer bonding experiences. Participation has withered over decades in civic organizations and churches that have traditionally connected people. Robert Putnam has famously measured this…”

    The data I’m referring to is Robert Putnam’s research data on Social Capital. No, not the 1996 research study that Fazio links to in his article. I’m talking about the 2000, Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. https://www.city-journal.org/html/bowling-our-own-10265.html

    Putnam characterizes the study’s conclusion saying in an interview linked above. “Diversity does not produce ‘bad race relations,’ Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend ‘to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.’ Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings ‘may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.’”

    The article goes on to say, “Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness…
    In general, they find that the more people are brought into contact with those of another race or ethnicity, the more they stick to their own, and the less they trust others. Putnam writes: ‘Across local areas in the United States, Australia, Sweden Canada and Britain, greater ethnic diversity is associated with lower social trust and, at least in some cases, lower investment in public goods.’”

    So, what are we to make of this? Presumably a lot, but I’m not sure how much of it has to do with political ideology. Just off the cuff, I would think potential causal factors, such as evolutionary tribalism (inclusive fitness & kin selection) might have more explanatory power for why 30% of Americans under 30 believe that war is merely the continuation of policy by other means.

    I hate to go all von Clausewitz in a comment section, but CNN polls on political partisanship just doesn’t pack the same punch as Maxine Waters’ muster call for dispensing a national urban ochlocracy, or Sweden’s sudden interest in welfare reform; or, even the Dutch’s malignant school segregation policies the parents (read white parents) who refuse integration reform measures.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-26/now-even-swedes-are-questioning-the-welfare-state

    https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/amsterdam-school-racial-segregation/396176/

    Evolutionary psychology is not for the faint of heart, i.e., progressives. For example, here’s another uncomfortable evolutionary finding. Babies are racist, and they’re born that way… Wait.

    What?

    Yeah, that’s right. Expecting mothers are basically prejudice factories, pumping out tiny little race hustlers like they’re fielding David Duke and Louis Farrakhan club teams.
    http://time.com/67092/baby-racists-survival-strategy/

    In the interest of fairness, the Belief Congruence Theory may offer a legitimate counterargument to my critique Fazio’s article, but still, whatever expository powers it may have we nonetheless will have to live with the fact that babies are assiduously racist; which, ironically, may explain the virulent pro-choice movement inculcated throughout the Left.

  6. D.B. Cooper says

    With all due respect to Mr. Fazio – who btw seems like just the sort of God fearing conservative that I’d let marry my daughter – his analysis here is not only wrong, it’s a bit slippery as well. Taken together, these three statements adequately reflect the error (read, attribution error) in his reasoning.

    “I’m not here concerned about ideological polarization, but rather the personal and cultural animosity that seems to be more common and more frenzied than it used to be…”

    Fazio thesis is self-evidently true, or at least qualitatively true. In either case, he’s right to claim that, “politics are not the sum of a person.” With that uncontested layup securely notched on his mantle, Fazio decides to extend his streak to two-in-a-row when he correctly observes that personal and cultural animosity “seems to be more common and more frenzied than it used to be.” That’s an easy enough claim to defend, Hell even Maxine Waters would promote violence to pursue political goals agree with that. Careful readers will note this is the high-water mark.

    “But as Americans increasingly cluster by political ideology, these fulfilling and humanizing interactions across the proverbial aisle become less common. ‘The big sort,’ so-named by Bill Bishop, is the phenomenon of America becoming more culturally — and, consequently, politically — polarized by geography since the 1970s…”

    Erudite commentary takes a precipitous decline at about the point where Fazio claims that Americans are clustering by political ideology. The claim isn’t so much false as it is specious. Americans do self-segregate by political ideology, but to assign political ideology as a primary impetus for the observed clustering is suspiciously reductive. Admittedly, and to his credit, Fazio does suggest that the political polarization is a consequence of increasing cultural polarization. But even that’s not entirely accurate, at least not according to the data. And I don’t mean the CNN poll data which almost assuredly had more non-sampling errors than a Donald Trump Inauguration Day head count.

    “Not only do fewer conservatives and liberals live next to each other, but those who do share fewer bonding experiences. Participation has withered over decades in civic organizations and churches that have traditionally connected people. Robert Putnam has famously measured this…”

    The data I’m referring to is Robert Putnam’s research data on Social Capital. No, not the 1996 research study that Fazio links to in his article. I’m talking about the 2000, Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. https://www.city-journal.org/html/bowling-our-own-10265.html

    Putnam characterizes the study’s conclusion saying in an interview linked above. “Diversity does not produce ‘bad race relations,’ Putnam says. Rather, people in diverse communities tend ‘to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.’ Putnam adds a crushing footnote: his findings ‘may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.’”

    The article goes on to say, “Even when communities are equally poor or rich, equally safe or crime-ridden, diversity correlates with less trust of neighbors, lower confidence in local politicians and news media, less charitable giving and volunteering, fewer close friends, and less happiness…
    In general, they find that the more people are brought into contact with those of another race or ethnicity, the more they stick to their own, and the less they trust others. Putnam writes: ‘Across local areas in the United States, Australia, Sweden Canada and Britain, greater ethnic diversity is associated with lower social trust and, at least in some cases, lower investment in public goods.’”

    So, what are we to make of this? Presumably a lot, but I’m not sure how much of it has to do with political ideology. Just off the cuff, I would think potential causal factors, such as evolutionary tribalism (inclusive fitness & kin selection) might have more explanatory power for why 30% of Americans under 30 believe that war is merely the continuation of policy by other means.

    I hate to go all von Clausewitz in a comment section, but CNN polls on political partisanship just doesn’t pack the same punch as Maxine Waters’ muster call for dispensing a national urban ochlocracy, or Sweden’s sudden interest in welfare reform; or, even the Dutch’s malignant school segregation policies the parents (read white parents) who refuse integration reform measures.

    Evolutionary psychology is not for the faint of heart, i.e., progressives. For example, here’s another uncomfortable evolutionary finding. Babies are racist, and they’re born that way… Wait.

    What?

    Yeah, that’s right. Expecting mothers are basically prejudice factories, pumping out tiny little race hustlers like they’re fielding David Duke and Louis Farrakhan club teams.
    http://time.com/67092/baby-racists-survival-strategy/

    In the interest of fairness, the Belief Congruence Theory may offer a legitimate counterargument to my critique Fazio’s article, but still, whatever expository powers it may have we nonetheless will have to live with the fact that babies are assiduously racist; which, ironically, may explain the virulent pro-choice movement inculcated throughout the Left.

    • Cheester says

      Excellent writing and astute analysis, D.B. Cooper. I very much enjoyed reading it!

    • @Cooper: you are a bit harsh on the author but I thoroughly enjoyed your bit on racist babies!

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Cheester – Thank you, Sir!

        @AA – Thank you… alright, you got me. I don’t know if AA if masculine or feminine. But, thank you, Ze???

        As for you’re assessment on my treatment of the author, I can tell you with all sincerity, everything after the first sentence was written in jest. Mr. Fazio is a fine prose stylist. I think he put forth a good argument and provided evidence to back up his claim. I just happen to disagree with his analysis. For all I know, he could be right. Undoubtedly, he looked at the problem more closely than I did, so who knows. What I do know, however, is that my sarcasm is not an indication of my opinion of his argument. That simply does not follow. There’s a subtle, but important difference between being polite and being sincere.

        And, to be sure, my critic was sincere. I do believe the social degeneracy that we’re experiencing is more a product of heighten ‘tribalistic tendencies’ than it is of political polarization. Now, I should also say that I don’t believe that either of these social phenomenon are occuring independent of one another. I just think the political polarization is more like an emerging property of these natural tendencies. A secondary or tertiary effect.

        In my opinion, these normally latent, but currently heighten, ‘tribalistic tendencies’ that we (society) are now experiencing and are promulgating onto the socio-cultural landscape is more or less a reactionary phenomenon. The question is, reactionary to what?

        Great question! We (society) are “tightening down,” “drawing in,” becoming more “tribalistic” precisely b/c our environments are becoming more diverse. In some very real sense, we are increasing our rational discrimination coefficient.

        To give a very crude example, say you were planning to move to a new city, and say you hired a real estate agent to show you and your family the available homes in the city (in your $ range); and say this real estate agent asked you if you wanted to see a house that was for sale on MLK drive. And say you not only didn’t fire the real estate agent immediately, but you also viewed the house, liked it, and bought it. At that point, we could safely say your rational discrimination radar was either turned down to zero, broke, or you’re a complete idiot.

        That’s what rational discrimination is, or in your case is not. Rational discrimination is a necessary component of human flourising. It doesn’t mean that you’re a racist or a sexist, etc., etc. It just means you’re not an idiot. If you’re antecedents on the Savannah weren’t exercising some sufficient level of rational discrimination, you wouldn’t be here.

        In short, as diversity increases (multiculturalism may even be an analog) people’s – society at large – natural rational discrimination radar becomes heighten. Savvy?

    • Curmudgeon says

      “Evolutionary psychology is not for the faint of heart, i.e., progressives. For example, here’s another uncomfortable evolutionary finding. Babies are racist, and they’re born that way…”

      Well, of course they are: mistrust and fear of the ‘other’ is a survival instinct which is clearly of particular utility to the defenceless young.

      Almost all instinctual behaviour is to do with the survival of the individual, reproductive unit, and species. Instinctual behaviour can be and is suppressed by socialisation when society has the affluence, time, and cohesion to make it possible. I.e, by civilisation. But when we are startled, heavily stressed, or threatened, instinctual behaviour rises to the surface once more, as of course it will.

      One doesn’t have to be an academic specialist in this field to know this: reflective laypeople know it, too. It’s surprising what a bit of varied life experience can teach.

      Therefore, we’re all racist. It’s just that most of the time, most of us are able successfully to suppress it, some to the extent that they acquire the misapprehension that they have no racism in them whatsoever.

      • D.B. Cooper says

        @Curmudgeon
        One doesn’t have to be an academic specialist in this field to know this: reflective laypeople know it, too. It’s surprising what a bit of varied life experience can teach.

        While true, it sounds like you probably hang around a better class a person than I normally do. They’re thick on the ground over my way; which, may suggest something about myself…

        Therefore, we’re all racist. It’s just that most of the time, most of us are able successfully to suppress it, some to the extent that they acquire the misapprehension that they have no racism in them whatsoever.

        I would actually say, most of the time, most of us aren’t able to successfully suppress it. We’re just getting better at hiding it – read, lying. Whats more, I would argue that it’s actually dangerous to suppress it. Rational discrimination has a high utility. The degree to which you do will vary by “location.”

        • Curmudgeon says

          “I would actually say, most of the time, most of us aren’t able to successfully suppress it. We’re just getting better at hiding it – read, lying. Whats more, I would argue that it’s actually dangerous to suppress it. Rational discrimination has a high utility.”

          That makes the point rather better than I did. I agree. Funny how useful lying to oneself can be, eh?

          As for those convinced they have no racist/sexist/genderist/whatever bone in their bodies, I would say: The People’s Front of Judea vs. The Judean People’s Front. This tendency to fissiparous group paranoia is beautifully explained in Families And How To Survive Them by John Cleese and Robin Skinner. A life-changing book.

  7. ccscientist says

    The deep flaw with equating a person’s politics with his worth is that most people change their views on all sorts of things with time and circumstances. Lots of things change when you have kids for example. People who start their own business often shift to being libertarian.

  8. I sit on the fence, in a lot of ways: I see the bullshit from all sides, from the conservatives, libertarians, the liberals, and progressives. We can pretend that political opinions are just that, opinions.However, opinions lead to votes, which lead to governmental actions. Someone having shitty politics directly leads to shitty outcomes. I can and do have opinions on that. I will not buddy up to someone with views I find immoral just because it’s a different “opinion”. I wouldn’t be friends with Richard Spenser, Rachel Dolezal, Chelsea Manning, Peter Thiel or any numerous amounts of others. Why? Because they are immoral. But please, keep clutching your pearls.

  9. ga gamba says

    I find it both fascinating and appalling the demands imposed by the progressives for a person’s spoken and written proclamations of ideological compliance, often prefaced by an acknowledgement of their privilege(s) and usually including an expression of regret for being a (descendant of a) settler when the context is in North America and Australia/New Zealand. It’s especially amusing when the imposition hasn’t been made immediately explicit yet s/he prefaces his/her online comment declaring their identity nonetheless. Good dog, you’ve been well trained.

    For those of you in need of “woke” here’s what to expect. You’ll be told the imposition demanded is offered “from a place of love” and is a “gift”. If you refuse it it’s because you “lack the courage” to “struggle”, you coward. “Not me!” you protest? For the love of all that is good and just understand you’ve already been declared guilty, whitey. It behooves you to “voluntarily” participate in these struggle sessions not to prove your innocence (which demands I further provide you “unpaid labour” to tell you again you’re guilty – do you fail appreciate how “painful” it is for me to have to repeat myself?), because you’re not, but to confess your crimes and state the actions you will undertake to redress them. Don’t neglect to super size it ‘cuz gurl need her fries.

    Prudence, indeed, dictates a government long established and a nation long prosperous be changed for light and transient causes.

  10. X. Citoyen says

    All of us need to stop disrupting university campuses, protesting on civic holidays and at sporting events, marching in the streets, no-platforming or shouting down speakers, forming Twitter mobs, getting people fired for wrong-speak, engaging in diatribes in classrooms, attacking people in the streets for their hats and t-shirts, and musing about genocide and racial guilt.

    Oh wait, I didn’t do any of that in the first place. Come to think of it, I don’t think “we” did any of that either.

  11. Zack says

    Open question to the Liberals/Leftists/Clinton voters in here: Could you be friends with a Trump voter? Could you high-five that person for bowling a strike for your team?

    A coworker of mine insists this is not possible for him, since many of his friends are “undocumented, trans, etc.” and that support for Trump is support for “structural violence against my friends.” I happened across this article minutes after that interaction, in which I tried to explain that one must not necessarily hold the same views toward various identity groups that Trump does to have voted for him, though I didn’t have the time to cite the overwhelming data showing racial animosity to have been a negligible factor at best in the election. He stated that the moral implications of politics are too often overlooked, before spewing some typical anti-Trump platitudes and misleading media talking points. His opinion strikes me as immature and intellectually lazy, even though I take his heart to be in the right place.

    As a person who is married to a first generation immigrant and whose friends are mostly not white, I have had to reconcile my own feelings toward Trump voters with the fact that some friends and family are among them. This has allowed me to understand the various reasons that people could have voted for Trump, and has helped not blame them as much, generally speaking. Even my most radical socialist friend, when asked the above question said “It depends on their motives.”

    What are your thoughts?

    • AesopFan says

      His opinion strikes me as immature and intellectually lazy, even though I take his heart to be in the right place.”

      Check out this book (linked earlier) — I think it describes your friend precisely.

      https://www.amazon.com/Coddling-American-Mind-Intentions-Generation/dp/0735224897

      The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure Hardcover – September 4, 2018
      by Greg Lukianoff (Author), Jonathan Haidt (Author)

      • Zack says

        That one is on my wish list! I read the article it’s based on, and it has motivated a lot of my current thinking about the culture wars and outrage on college campuses. Even convinced me to buy Lukianoff’s book, which reflected a lot of my own undergraduate experience at Berkeley during 2015/2016. I certainly thought of Haidt after that brief discussion with my coworker – I find his intolerance of opposing views and treatment of disagreement as a moral affront to be insufferable, to the point I can barely talk to him outside of break room banter. I have to keep myself form becoming equally intolerant of his views…

        Thanks for the link!

  12. AZBill says

    [Disagree with something Obama said? RACIST! It couldn’t possibly be simple political disagreement (you know, right v left) it was because you had your KKK whites hanging in the closet!]

    I’ve never heard anyone call someone a racist based on a policy difference with Obama. I have heard the argument that the wholesale antipathy to anything and everything Obama says or does is racist. I have also heard a number of of folks on the Right call Obama “racist” based on any number of statements or policy disagreements.

    To the point. While we can agree that politics does not make the person. The politics that a person engages in can define the moral substrate upon which they encounter the world.

    The argument that we can overlook the moral foundations of one’s political choices collapses under any number of scenarios. How many libertarian/Stalinist friendships are maintained? Anyone attend any NAACP/White Nationalist community gatherings lately?

    We can only live with each other civilly if our politics are civilized. One cannot have a civilized politics by calling groups of people “animals” or “vermin” or putting children in internment camps. Once we overstep those bounds then it is inevitable that the the bonds of friendship and community and the glue of civilization will dissolve.

    Patience and understanding are moral virtues until they are not.

  13. AesopFan says

    “We can only live with each other civilly if our politics are civilized. One cannot have a civilized politics by calling groups of people “animals” or “vermin” or putting children in internment camps. ”

    Perhaps it oversteps the bounds as well to mis-characterize statements until you find something you can disagree with.

    Of course, MS-13 gang members ARE a “group of people” and President Trump did indeed call THAT group “animals”.
    And ICE has put children in protective housing (as it did under Obama and Bush and many previous presidents) but they are hardly the equivalent of “internment camps” which has a very specific historical meaning.

    “Patience and understanding are moral virtues” but they have to be practiced first.

  14. AZBill says

    Aesop fan;

    The general manner in which Trump discusses immigrants, i.e., rapists, murderers, animals, vermin, infecting, invading, belies your facile description. There is no doubt in my mind that the very numerous public incidents of attacks on people of Latin American heritage(immigrant or not) are consequences of that rhetoric.

    The children never should have been in “housing” in the first place.

    Believe me; I’ve practiced patience and understanding for decades. I’m running pretty lean on both virtues after two years of Trump.

  15. Bubblecar says

    I seem to remember that it was originally the conservatives who launched the “culture war” – all those stirring Christian Right speeches about how they were going to “take back the nation, street by street” etc.

    It’s only lately we’re hearing conservative voices pleading for “moderation”, presumably because they realise that despite their recent populist resurgence under Trump, in polite society they’ve lost the war. And since they framed it as an all-or-nothing, winner-takes-all conflict, they now face those very consequences.

    So it’s not surprising that we now see more conservatives attempting to frame their cause in the language of their opponents, calling for greater “tolerance and diversity”.

    What they hope we won’t notice is that they really seek greater tolerance for bigotry, and hope to include the championing of racism, sexism and homophobia under the banner of “diversity”, and the promotion of irrational superstition under the banner of “intellectual freedom”.

  16. Curmudgeon says

    @ Bubblecar

    “What they hope we won’t notice is that they really seek greater tolerance for bigotry, and hope to include the championing of racism, sexism and homophobia under the banner of “diversity”, and the promotion of irrational superstition under the banner of “intellectual freedom”.”

    Sexism, then, for example.

    I’d rather the captain of my airliner were not dealing with a severe reproductive health symptom whilst trying to operate efficiently, especially under stress. Which is not to say that women cannot be extremely good airline pilots, as anyone who has heard the recording of Tammie Jo Shults dealing with a fatal engine explosion on her Boeing 737 can attest:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkVTdvcghHc

    What if someone of the professional calibre of Tammie Jo Shults also suffers regularly and predictably from severe reproductive health symptoms? There is no reason why she should not be an airline pilot, but there is also no good reason why she should be rostered when suffering. The result is likely to be that she flies fewer hours per year than a male equivalent, and is therefore less productive for her employer.

    Should her annual salary nonetheless be the same as that of the equivalent male? For flying fewer hours, therefore at a higher equivalent hourly rate? How about her seniority? What does this say about the ‘gender pay gap’? Because in this instance the male would be earning less than the equivalent female.

    Intellectual Freedom. As for the promotion of irrational superstition under the banner of “intellectual freedom”: this assumes that those engaged in ‘intellectual freedom” discussions have sufficiently open minds to have their opinions influenced by the discussions they witness and in which they participate. Fundamental believers are characterised by their imperviousness to persuasion, as anyone who has spent any time at their front door jousting with Jehovah’s Witnesses will know. The progress of mutual understanding is not possible.

    But that doesn’t mean that Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be heard. It simply means that they should be free to state their case. True believers are and have always been intellectually a lost cause; those with enquiring, open minds will be able to hear incoherent, contradictory, circular arguments, and form their opinions in consequence. This is how intellectual progress occurs.

    Homophobia. Reproductive sex perpetuates the species; non-reproductive sex clearly doesn’t. Therefore, in evolutionary terms, non-reproductive sex can never be the norm. Affluent, civilised society makes it possible for us to have the time and freedom to engage in hedonistic sex, but nonetheless, the species must be perpetuated, and apart from the tiny minority of IVF births, this requires heterosexual sex, plus (one hopes) a stable child-rearing environment.

    Homosexual sex is hedonistic and optional. Heterosexual sex is a necessity for species perpetuation. It is not ‘homophobic’ to point out this obvious fact. Fundamental believers adhere unquestioningly to the directives in ancient texts which abhor and forbid homosexual sex. One can speculate that at the time these texts were written it was practically necessary to forbid homosexual sex, not only to perpetuate the species, but to guarantee the survival of the social structure. Who really knows?

    One can only observe that many of Scriptures’ strictures have a basis in practical reality. Two of the three monotheistic desert religions proscribe the consumption of pork; not a bad idea in a desert climate with an absence of refrigeration. Muslims categorise dogs as ‘unclean’: in the rabies-infested Middle East, many of them are.

    Complicated, isn’t it? And in ‘polite society’, are we allowed to discuss this?

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