Two-Party Tribalism
October 2018

Growing up on an Illinois farm I "knew" Chicago was ruled by "The Mob" and governed by a corrupt "Democratic Party Machine". Middle-class farmers we were Republicans when being an Eisenhower Republican was more than alright.

Having just won the Great War we were all proud Americans. This was easy there being only three television channels and it being a time when television and radio stations were required by law to provide equal time to pundits of both political parties. The economy was booming, everything Americans built was best and we knew General Eisenhower would save us from the Russians.

Republicans I knew tended to be well-educated fiscally conservative financially successful white men who attended mainstream protestant churches.

Democrats I knew tended to be minorities, factory workers and their union leaders. While most were Protestant they welcomed Catholics into the party - even if they wouldn't want their daughter to marry one.

White men with a high school education could find union jobs that paid well enough to support their stay-at-home wife who raised their four children in a three-bedroom house they owned and took road trip vacations while buying a new car every two or three years. Nostalgia for that version of the past attracted many currently less fortunate Americans to the Make America Great Again messiah.

It was not a perfect world. Jim Crow was thriving in the South and informally adhered to most everywhere. Polio was maiming and killing tens of thousands of children each year, tens of thousands adults were being killed and maimed in automobile and industrial accidents each year and so on. Only about one of ten of us went to college, which was the pathway to economic success, and only one of that ten was female.

It is easy for elders to believe both parties are like they used to be. In reality both parties flipped.

The Democratic Party has been taken over by college educated women and men. The Democratic party has become the centrist champion of fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, procedural norms, civil public discourse, responsible border enforcement, free health care and quality education for all, social welfare for all, Pax Americana, regulatory protection for people and the environment and policies that reduce income inequality like requiring the super-wealthy to pay a more fair share of taxes since it is they who benefit most.

According to the 2015 census about 40% of all adult American women, and 30% of all adult American men, have a baccalureate degree. Higher education exposes students to people and reality that inspires many with a desire to make our world a better place.

Republicans invited others in. Being a minority, when it takes a majority to win elections, they recruited persons who used to vote Democratic.While well-educated socially-connected men still think they control the Republican Party, since they must pander to their less economically successful and socially connected religious fundamentalist base, traditional Republicans no longer control the party. To remain in office they champion fiscal irresponsibility to enrich the wealthy campaign donors who pay for their campaigns and life styles, procedural radicalism to win at all cost, nativism and racisim to make it easy to find identifiable "scapegoats" to blame for their loss of success in the new economy, far-right well-armed militias, a fundamental Christian state religion, publically funded private and religious education, lower taxes for the rich to keep campaign donors satisfied, ending regulatory protection for people and the environment as a way to promote economic development and isolationism to inflame the fear of foreigners it takes to motivate their base to vote Republican.

Knowing how government works makes traditional Republicans very good at voter-suppression and gerrymandering as a way to win elections.

A super-majority of us wants the same things. We want affordable health care for all, free public education that promotes economic opportunity in our rapidly evolving world, public safety so we can raise our children in peace and walk without fear, roads and infrastructure that make it possible to live well and to worship or not as we choose.

Most of us also have no problem with everyone paying a fair share of taxes as long as the money collected goes toward maintaining a middle-class or better way of life for all instead of towards opening the public treasury to members of the super-wealthy donor class so they have more gold to hoard in their hidden off-shore tax-free vaults.Unfortunately, according to The Economist, only about 20% of the electorate pays attention to politics.

I worry about the Republican promise that, if they win control of congress, they will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits to pay for their tax cuts for millionaires and corporations while a Trump created Trade War fuels inflation thereby reducing the purchasing power of my pension and the value of the Social Security and Medical benefits earned.

Hatred of tribalism is a result of being forced to choose between extremists who solicit the super wealthy campaign donor cash it takes to purchase expensive television ads and stage expensive rallies. Frustration with tribalism is why an almost equal numbers of us list our party affiliation as "Independent" as list it as "Democrat" or "Republican" or don't bother to vote.

Other nations limit the power of super wealthy donors to purchase the loyalty of elected officials. Recently there was an attempt to place a "Top Two Primary" initiative on the ballot for citizens at-large to vote on - an attempt thwarted by wealthy campaign donors once they realized it would limit their ability to buy their own elected officials.

Its a few days until 2020 mid-term elections. Only voting for Democratic Women may well be my best option.