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By Ryan Ricks
As this article is being written and developed, America has just been released from its longest government shutdown to date, lasting longer than the previously held record of 3 weeks.
One of the main reasons for this complete lack of agreement is the increasing divisiveness of the political parties and the rising influence of identity politics. Especially within the last few years, the Republican and Democratic Parties have been tailoring themselves to their specific bases, and this has caused increased separatism in government.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines tribalism as “loyalty to a tribe or other social group especially when combined with strong negative feelings for people outside the group.”
It is clear that tribalism is at play in this government shutdown. With the Democrats controlling the house, and the Republicans controlling the Senate, this shutdown is more intense than any of its predecessors. Everything is under attack, even the annual State of the Union Address.
Government divisiveness is getting worse. According to CNN, Trump and Democrat leaders haven’t even spoken in over a week. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, stated that Democrats wouldn’t negotiate with President Trump until the government reopened.
So what has caused this extreme separatism? One way to explain this could be the increasing prevalence of identity politics.
Right now, America is in new territory. White people are holding less and less of a share in the overall demographics of the country. While they are still an overwhelming majority, a number of white Americans are feeling threatened by this development.
As history has shown, when groups feel threatened, they become tribal, only associating with others like them and being defensive towards all outsiders. The Republican Party, especially Donald Trump, have exploited this misjudged feeling of being threatened, taking most of this isolated, older, less educated base with them.
It also isn’t a stretch to say Republicans are conservative, so those who feel as though traditional values, which could possibly include white supremacy, are being threatened have also been exploited by the GOP.
That is not to say there is not identity politics in the Democratic Party either. This type just presents itself more subtly. Presently, it seems that the left has a lack of identity, as it isn’t just one group that makes up most of the base. But, the Democratic voter base does share some commonalities.
Like Republicans, Democrats have embraced tribalism as a way to also expound an “us vs. them” mentality, rejecting movements like “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” and sometimes going so far as to paint all white people as the enemy, ever-ready to call anyone a racist or a sexist or a white supremacist.
While in theory, the idea of identity politics doesn’t seem harmful—political parties coalesce around common ideas anyway—the way it’s being practiced in America has caused it to slowly become detrimental to our government, directly leading to the shutdown we’re in today.
The tensions between the Democrats and the Republicans have been growing for years now, and it seems that they have come to a head with this record-breaking shutdown. If those in Congress can leave behind their tribalism, just for one second, and see the other side of things, then a compromise can be reached. If not, then who knows what could happen? We’re in uncharted territory now.
Image credit: https://thebluereview.org/anger-and-division-in-american-politics/