Partisan Identification

There Is No Political Tribe That Deserves Your Complete Loyalty

Commit to principles and ideals, not politicians.


If you ever wanted to understand the power of tribal loyalty, there are two new articles for you to read. The first is a Daily Beast article that explores the reinvention of Maxine Waters, a congresswoman "once dubbed one of the nation's 'most corrupt'" in Washington, D.C. The second is a column titled "Why Conservatives Still Attack Trump" in which columnist and radio talk-show host Dennis Prager attempts to figure out why so many Republicans refuse to walk lockstep with President Trump.

Let's start with Waters, who is, of course, still corrupt—a dictator-loving conspiracy theorist who has abused her office for decades. She is now the recipient of standing ovations for her sharp attacks on Trump. The esteem Waters receives not only exposes the hypocrisy of many who claim to resist Trump on constitutional and ethical grounds but also warns against aligning yourself with people who don't respect the norms they claim to protect.

Those who advocate overturning the Citizens United ruling and allowing the state to ban political speech—almost every liberal—have little business lecturing about free expression. Neither do those who, only a few months ago, proposed ditching Fifth Amendment protections in an effort to confiscate guns. Nor do those whose opposition to spying on American citizens is contingent on which president is in office. The notion that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) or Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are guardians of the Constitution is laughable.

Obligatory post-election anti-Trumpism, which dictates absolute opposition to what this one person is doing, puts you in league with people whose concern has little to do with the Constitution and everything to do with their ideology. "Never Trump" was once a statement of intent. Now it's often a demand for conservatives to engage in hysterics every time the word "Russia" appears. No, thanks.

A good example is the Paris Agreement. "We can't let Pres @BarackObama's global effort to reduce carbon pollution with the #ParisAgreement be undone in one fell swoop," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted recently. According to Democrats, the agreement is the most crucial international deal the world has ever known yet not important enough to be subjected to the traditional checks and balances of American governance.

When the next liberal president is elected, he or she will use the Environmental Protection Agency to bypass Congress and, by fiat, regulate carbon dioxide—a chemical compound that permeates everything—without any consideration for the cost or the electorate. In other words, they'll do it in the same way Democrats bypass the process when making immigration policy or social policy or any policy they don't have the votes to enact.

In 2014, Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe—now also a hero of the resistance—reminded us that this kind of governance is what former Associate Justice Robert Jackson warned about when he spoke to "the balanced power structure of our Republic." Rest assured, no one at The New York Times will lament the corrosion of process or executive abuse when that day comes.

By withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, however, Trump is strengthening the balance of power in this country. No, I'm not under the impression he would do so out of some deep reverence for the sanctity of the Constitution. No standing ovations from me. But it is what it is.

"We are not so different, you and I," Prager might say to Democrats. His position, after all, is AlwaysTrump, a demand to ignore every scandal and fumble for the greater good. In his column, Prager asks Republicans to "please report for duty." He says: "I have concluded that there are a few reasons that explain conservatives who were Never-Trumpers during the election, and who remain anti-Trump today. The first and, by far, the greatest reason is this: They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake."

If the survival of the United States hinges on the competence of the Trump administration, then the civil war is lost, I'm afraid. If, however, it hinges on a set of ideals and laws—which is what I have always understood Prager's position to be—then there is no obligation to follow any man, and certainly not a man with malleable principles. And I'm sure if Trump were sending pallets of cash to Iran, Prager wouldn't be insisting on this level of support for him, even if his tax plan were better than President Reagan's.

Prager circumvents this problem by claiming that the president has acted in a wholly conservative manner. Yet Trump's recklessness and temperament certainly aren't conservative, nor are many of his ideas. But setting that aside for a moment, if the case against President Obama was predicated not only on his policies but on the way he abused the mechanisms of power, then, surely, Trump deserves criticism as well.

And if a person is truly apprehensive about creeping "authoritarianism"—these days, the prevailing concern of the same Democrats who push policies that almost exclusively coerce Americans economically—rigid group thinking just isn't feasible anymore. Anti, anti-anti, pro, whatever. The sad truth is that there are simply too many people acting reprehensibly in Washington for many Americans to be a member of any of these tribes.


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  1. No hysterical, tribal chest banging comments in the article pointing out the absurdity of such? I’m almost disappointed.

  2. George Washington warned us about the dangers of partisanship:

    “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the RUINS of Public Liberty.”

    Since George was a slave owner, that means the spirit of this article is RACIST.. End of story.. (Do I really have to point out this post is sarcasm?)

    1. The problem is that no tribalist is willing to view historical events or text in the context of the age they came about.

      Ironically, primitive tribalism ignores the principles of Washington, Jefferson, Paine, etc out of complete lack of principle.

  3. My tribe is one where people support the Constitution, maximum freedom, free market, and limited government.

    There are a surprising number of commenters here on a Libertarian-ish website that do not support those things.

    1. The Constitution as amended by looters includes the communist income tax and mystical prohibition amendments. In its original form, when Dred Scott was before the Suprema Corte, brown-skinned chattel property were worth 3/5 the clout of landed honkies. This isn’t saying it isn’t the best constitution going. I will take up cudgels for it on the hope of amending it as proposed in 1957: “And Congress shall pass no laws restricting of abridging the freedom of production and trade.”

  4. Very few articles I read anymore are worth the effort. This is something I have been saying for 50 years just not so well. Keep up the theme you may actually do some good in saving this country from itself.

    1. If you vote for a candidate on the libertarian platform your vote has roughly fifteen times the clout of votes wasted on the looter kleptocracy. That sort of voting has always in the past changed laws and rulings (usually for for worse). That’s where the factor of fifteen comes from. Reason is the only thing I’ve subscribed to since 1980, with gaps. It is to the looter press as the LP platform is to the kleptocracy platforms.

  5. RE: When the next liberal president is elected, he or she will use the Environmental Protection Agency to bypass Congress and, by fiat, regulate carbon dioxide?a chemical compound that permeates everything?without any consideration for the cost or the electorate. In other words, they’ll do it in the same way Democrats bypass the process when making immigration policy or social policy or any policy they don’t have the votes to enact.

    The writer may not LIKE these policy positions, but politicians were obviously elected on the premise of them passing something like these policies, and the fact that they were elected gives legitimacy to those positions. That’s how democracy works – and it works both ways. There are many mainstays of the Republican platform that have less than popular support, but that doesn’t mean the laws passed are “illegitimate” somehow.

    In essence, the writer seems to have a criticism of democracy itself, and his answer for it is….more (direct) democracy.

    When one’s chosen policy enjoys popular support, we cheer for a more direct democracy. The people’s voices must be heard! When we DON’T agree with the popular position, we hem and haw about constitutionality and government overreach.

    1. “…and the fact that they were elected gives legitimacy to those positions.”

      I couldn’t disagree more. Whether a politician abides by the Constitution and supports policy that is in line with the tone of the Constitution and enlightenment values determines legitimacy. The basic tone is this: any authority must prove its legitimacy. There’s a reason the framers of the US spoke of the “tyranny of the majority.” They knew that the oppressed can easily become the oppressor, and that tribalism is the enemy of principle.

      1. Isn’t that what the judiciary is for? The judiciary in fact overturns regulations and laws all the time. I’m not saying that legislators are incapable of overreach just because they were elected (though I admittedly did kind of say that xD).

        The system has built in to it checks on overreach in the form of the judiciary. However, I’m pushing back on the idea that politicians shouldn’t ever do anything that isn’t popular. That is in fact their job, and the underlying philosophy behind a representative democracy. We elect officials who are capable of making the clear-headed decisions a mob is incapable of making.

        1. Yeah, I think that’s the problem… not touching anything that isn’t popular. Not really much difference from mob rule. Agree that that’s their job to make those decisions based on Constitutional consistency, not the whims of the public.

    2. Religious conservative alert:
      1. Use of “liberal” to describe socialists is frustrated prohibiionist cant from 1932.
      2. Apologist sanction of victim for nationalsocialist mystical bigot planks adopted to get jobs for the boys.
      3. Argument from prophesy, common to antichoice creation science and Gaian econazi pseudoscience dupes alike.

  6. Yhe author is too stupid to understand that the place markers Democrat and Republican dont mean anything any more and have little to do with the value choices of those the they pretend to represent.

    2ndly there is a political unit worth my loyalty. My family. You guys are truly lost.

  7. It’s no coincidence that much of the worst legislation passed gets bipartisan support (and that’s a whole lot of awful law). We largely have “divided government” on the same predictable, perennial, and symbolic party positions.

    It was just a couple months ago when Republicans and Democrats were rejoicing when bombs fell on Syria.

    Principle? Almost none whatsoever. Positions depend on who the president is, political headwinds, etc. You’d be hard pressed to find a lawmaker at the national level who is willing to stick their neck out for principle.

  8. Just for what it’s worth, I am probably at least 75th percentile of the commentariat when it comes to conservative sympathies, and I still wish to express that Prager can eat a dick with his “Trump is saving us from destruction in the civil war” bullshit.

    There should be no political loyalty to anyone for any reason. You have a list of things you want Washington to accomplish, and you team up with hopeful politicians to trade your vote/cash for their help in doing those things. Sure, parties are a theoretically useful shorthand for a given group of positions, but people use them stupidly. They conform their own positions to the party and occasionally follow them off a cliff rather than reevaluate every election whether their original goals are still being served by Party X.

    1. “There should be no political loyalty to anyone for any reason. You have a list of things you want Washington to accomplish, and you team up with hopeful politicians to trade your vote/cash for their help in doing those things.”

      Well said! Unfortunately, politicians from both parties agree on the worst positions possible, especially domestic policy.

      1. By “both parties” Juan means mean the Looter Kleptocracy and the LP? If you meant the DemoGOP, there’s your problema. Every major change in law and jurisprudence has come from the platforms of small parties that got as little as 1.4% of the vote (beer a felony for nearly 14 years), to 9% of the vote (Manifesto plank 2 becomes an income tax by 1894). A large chunk of the looter Wikipedia is co-opted to get people to ignore these vote counts, but the Republican Suprema Corte voted in Roe v. Wade that pregnant women have individual rights a month after Tonie Nathan and John Hospers earned a single electoral vote for the LP. The Dems just lost because instead of copying our relegalisation plank, they chose the Green party plan for carbon tax extorsion. With 4M votes, the LP platform has the clout.

    1. Someone needs to test his programming before setting it out in the wild.
      How many of you want to work 80 hours a day for underpayment?
      Form a line by the door please, no pushing.

      Sadly, the spam often outdoes the comments for logic and reason (pun intended)

  9. David says,n “No, I’m not under the impression he would do so out of some deep reverence for the sanctity of the Constitution.”

    Why the f not!? Trump stated it was as part of his explanation.

  10. Same thing in Brazil. Like the Nixon amendment to the tax code that subsidizes looter parties, Brazil has since 2002 spent 1.4 billion in USD to subsidize media commercials for 33 communist, fascist and prohibitionist political parties. Result? The woman president was deposed by antiabortion fanatics, her replacement is facing impeachment, the Speaker of the house has been in prison for months on a 15-year sentence, the earlier prez and the party whip for the largest party are under indictment and corporations such as JBS, Odebrecht, Siemens, Pertrobras and more are on the carpet answering to bid-rigging and commercial bribery investigations also involving nearly half the Congress. Investigators die in plane crashes, night club shootings, etc. or are themselves charged and indicted. Oh, there is NO LP IN BRAZIL. Judges reject all such petitions for technicalities.

  11. Reason enough for to light into some of your fellow contributors at Reason mag, David.

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