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October 10, 2006

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Andrew, quite honestly, I would have no problem with crossing the aisle. I have voted for Republicans in the paast and will probably do so in the future.

This year, however, there is not a single Republican at any level that I would vote for. The reason for this is that tyhe only way for the Republican Party to be motivated to clean its own house is through a massive defeat.

BTW, your comparison of Thomas to Clinton is flawed on many levels, but the major one is that Lewinsky was a consenting adult who, per some reports, wanted to have a sexual affair with a high up politician, if not the President himself.

Hill viewed herself as being harrassed unwillingly.

Big difference.

John, I imagine Andrew was thinking of some of the other women who made accusations against Clinton, not Lewinsky.

For what it's worth, afaik, Clinton did harass women other than Monica Lewinsky. Personally, I thought this was appalling. I did not, however, think that it was worthy of impeachment.

As far as Thomas, though, I recall a lot of people who thought not that women didn't ever lie about this, but that Anita Hill, in particular, was not. I opposed Thomas because I thought that he was lying to the Senate confirmation committee, and that this had to reflect a view of the Senate's role in advising and consenting that couldn't be squared with real respect for the Constitution, which I see as essential in a Supreme Court justice.

I have also voted for Republicans in my day. I don't have a problem with crossing the line, though this election is somewhat different for me, since I think that the Congressional leadership has to be replaced, and that this means electing Democrats. Nor do I find it odd that people have a hard time realizing that their guys are really corrupt.

What puzzles me about the Republican bloggers I quoted in my NK post, and some of the odder reactions to the Foley story, isn't that they are having a hard time with it; it's that they seem to have adopted ways of dealing with apparent evidence that the Republicans are bad news that make it impossible in principle for them to recognize that that evidence is for real. The number of possible reasons for dismissing it -- X has a book deal, Y is a Democrat (not an operative, but an ordinary person who registered D rather than R), Z once opposed a development project and is thus a radical environmentalist (this was said about one of the people who came forward to say that Allen used racial slurs), and now 'this claim is good for Democrats, so it must be a Democratic dirty trick -- has grown capacious enough to swallow all possible bad news.

And that's bizarre.

Uhh, thanks, sort of, cleek.

"You cannot fear death and fully love life. You cannot fear death and fully love America."

Now we know.

And that's bizarre.

I honestly think there is a great deal of projection of their own behaviour on to their opponents. (Why wouldn't "they" lie? "We" lie, so so would they)

Andrew--
I regret I don't have time at the moment to dig the references up, but research into these matters tends to show that people pick their affiliations first, and then justify them post hoc. This may be a simpler explanation for some of the things you've discussed above. (quasi-tangentially, I've always disliked the very sight of George W. Bush. It makes me wonder, if he had been a prominent Republican when I was a teenager, if I now would be a registered Democrat instead of an independent. Certain Republicans have seemed to me to have the same visceral loathing of Clinton.)
Also, your comment about skull-bashing is perhaps more biblical-sounding than you meant. Considering how much we as humans partake of the chimp sensibility, our ancestors probably were bashing in skulls (and eating the brains) for longer than they could be defined as human.

"Hill viewed herself as being harrassed unwillingly."

This is a further illustration of tribalism. The view advocated at the time of the Hill allegations was that a subordinate shouldn't be put in that situation because any willingness had strong elements of coercion implicated. This was the view at the time Clinton signed his sexual harrassment bill. This view as publically and forcefully pushed by feminist groups such as NOW did not change until after the Clinton scandals. As it happens I think the pre-Clinton feminist view was too harsh. But would the public feminist view have changed so dramatically and so quickly in response to a Republican scandal in the same style? I'm doubtful.

Judge Thomas was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate, Anita Hill, and was pilloried for his presumed transgression by feminist groups. The common refrain at the time was that women don't lie about such things, so it could safely be assumed that Thomas was guilty of the infractions he was accused of. Those same groups sang a very different tune later in the decade when President Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, arguing for, among other things, a 'one free grope' rule that would have been unthinkable for Judge Thomas.

Oh, that meme. Andrew, for heaven's sake, do your fact checking. If you can find an example of a self-identified feminist who argued that Clinton was entitled to sexually harass his subordinates - even just once - I'll buy you whatever you eat instead of doughnuts.I will post you a box of muffins. I'm serious.

Anita Hill said she had been harassed by Clarence Thomas, and - as she points out - because he was male and she was black, her testimony was disbelived, and many of the same people who were later to claim that they believed Paula Jones decided that Anita Hill was lying.

What you are describing, in fact, is the mirror image of reality. It was Republicans who decided that Anita Hill was part of an enemy tribe and ought to be disbelieved, and that Paula Jones was providing testimony that would help them bring down their enemy and ought to be believed. I'm somehow unsurprised that your memory puts it the other way round, but that's what Google is for: fact-checking.

But I seriously doubt you can find a feminist who was arguing that Clinton was entitled to "one free grope". (I don't doubt you can find lots of anti-feminists claiming that feminists were saying that. But that's rather different.)

Googling on "One free grope" I discover that what Andrew appears to have been referring to was a mass distortion of Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the New York Times on 22nd March 1998, in which Steinem points out that Clinton is not guilty of sexual harassment because, according to the testimony of the several women who accused him, he always took no for an answer. Clarence Thomas, according to Anita Hill, never took no for an answer. I suspect that Andrew had read only the various right-wing/anti-feminist/anti-Clinton garblings of Gloria Steinem, not the op-ed itself (that's Republican tribalism for you) but there you go.

My offer is still open. If Andrew can find me one example of a feminist arguing that Clinton was entitled to sexually harass his subordinates, then I'll post him a box of muffins. If he can't, I think he should amend that part of this post....

Great post. I hope folks respond to your general point and don't get bogged down debating the specific merits of this or that accusation (after all, even if you think all of the harassment claims against Clinton were baseless, you can still charge his administration with having initiated the program of extraordinary rendition.)

The only qualification I would make is this. Sometimes folks will vote the straight ticket not out of tribalism but because they (very rationally) want to add to the majority that their party has in the legislature. I'm planning on voting for a horrible Democrat this year not because I like him (I think his Republican opponent is actually preferable on the war) but because I know that the Democrat will vote to make Reid the majority leader.

Thanks for the post, Andrew.

Hilzoy, Clinton is alleged to have harrassed women other than Monica Lewinsky. I think the qualifier is important because IMO there are significant doubts as to whether all or any of those allegations are true.

As for the original essay, the failure to identify any specific conduct on President Clinton's part, any specific allegations against him, or any specific "very different tunes" other than the unattributed "free grope rule" which I don't happen to recall makes the entire comparison vague to the point of meaninglessness. This is a particular problem because, absent those specifics, I am not inclined to think of the Clinton and Clarence Thomas stories as bearing any sort of close factual relationship. I start from a suspicious stance here because I have seen so many conservatives lump Clinton's conduct in with the dissimilar conduct of others so many times, including, for example, repeated recent comparisons of Clinton to Mark Foley.

Trickster: true enough. I'm basing my opinion on such things as: knowing at least one person whose daughter was warned not to get into an elevator with Clinton.

The view advocated at the time of the Hill allegations was that a subordinate shouldn't be put in that situation because any willingness had strong elements of coercion implicated. This was the view at the time Clinton signed his sexual harrassment bill. This view as publically and forcefully pushed by feminist groups such as NOW did not change until after the Clinton scandals.

How were "strong elements of coercion implicated" in a situation in which the female underling initiated the sexual interaction, as did Lewinsky? What feminist groups have stated that female subordinate employees should not initiate sexual interaction with their bosses, or conversely that bosses so approached are obligated to reject such approaches? What groups changed "doctrine" on situations in which female employees initiated sexual interaction with their professional higher-ups?

I'll be surprised if you have good answers to these questions, because I suspect you have fallen into the fallacy, oft repeated by conservatives discussing the Lewinsky matter, of conflating garden-variety boss-on-underling sexual harrassment with the very different situation when a non-harrassing boss is approached by an underling who finds the boss attractive.

the tendency to ascribe the worst possible motives to one's political opponents stands with death and taxes as things the world will never be rid of

Maybe, but the political tribe with which I identify acts in exactly the opposite way: saying that almost every person, most certainly including our political opponents, believes they're doing the right, moral thing in almost all cases.

For instance, I believe that, inside the fevered fantasy worlds George Bush and Dick Cheney inhabit, they truly believe they're acting for the good of America. Of course, Saddam felt exactly the same way about himself and Iraq.

That's what's so terrifying about human beings and politics -- our ability to convince ourselves that the most hideous actions we take out of self-interest are morally justified.

(See here for an interesting example regarding Nixon and the famous picture of the naked Vietnamese girl.)

"Clinton is alleged to have harrassed women other than Monica Lewinsky. I think the qualifier is important because IMO there are significant doubts as to whether all or any of those allegations are true."

You seem to be engaging in tribalistic analysis here....Thomas was alleged to have harrassed Hill. If the qualifier "alleged" is an important part of your argument in the Clinton case it should at least be looked at in the Thomas case.


Trickster,

I start from a suspicious stance here because I have seen so many conservatives lump Clinton's conduct in with the dissimilar conduct of others so many times, including, for example, repeated recent comparisons of Clinton to Mark Foley.

and Jesurgislac:

"according to the testimony of the several women who accused him, he always took no for an answer."

This is an excellent evolution of the argument on sexual harrassment. Very probably taking no for an answer is a better standard than the one offered at the time of Thomas. Steinem in particular was pushing a theory of sexual harrassment which emphasized that even the first advance was wrong because of the implication of coercion and the imbalance of power. That was the dominant feminist analysis of workplace harrassment before Clinton. I certainly think that the current analysis is better than the earlier one--but the shift took place over Clinton. Would the shift eventually have taken place? Perhaps. Would it have taken place over a Republican doing the same thing? I doubt it.

except for the Hill/Clinton stuff, good post. :)

a lot of discussion on the web seems to assume that people are 100% consistent in all their thinking, or at least their writing, and that all their motives and reasons are obvious (so we can observe and track them) and consistent with each other. that makes it easy for critics to find examples of their targets saying something that doesn't perfectly fit with what the assumed motives are. when critics find those things, they can shout "hypocrite!" till they nearly burst their lungs.

it'd be nice if everybody was perfectly internally-consistent and that motivations were simple and obvious. they're not. and it'd be nice if people would accept that other people aren't simple, obvious and consistent. they don't.

yes, i'm as guilty of it as anyone. and i don't claim otherwise.

Andrew, you should know better than to illustrate tribalism with an insult to the other tribe. Down that road lies only frustration. Besides, why would anyone care what someone who admits to having been a member of a cargo cult has to say about our fine Enlightenment traditions?

;- )

I agree that there is altogether too much tribalism. I'm not seeing a solution except patient challenge to factual mistake (assuming that someone's views derive from that person's understanding of the facts), and demonstration that one's own tribe does not consist solely of brain-eating cannibals.

If anyone wants a classic example of tribalism in action (other than this very thread), the Volokh thread on the 10 tenets of liberalism is classic.

there's enough straw at 45 comments to restart the Great Chicago Fire.

excellent post, Andrew.

Maybe, but the political tribe with which I identify acts in exactly the opposite way: saying that almost every person, most certainly including our political opponents, believes they're doing the right, moral thing in almost all cases.

Which, riffing off that, is part of what I find so dangerous about the Bush Administration: I think there are significant elements which do not believe they're doing the right, moral thing because they simply don't care about rightness or morality. [IOW, it's analogous to "bullshit": rectitude is not to be subverted, it's totally irrelevant.] I'm not in any way saying that's unique -- for example, I don't believe that Saddam believed, in any meaningful sense, that he was doing the "right" or "moral" thing (unlike, say, Mao who probably did, and look how much that's worth) -- but that it's particularly dangerous because our current system simply isn't adequate to deal with people for whom such considerations are simply meaningless.

You seem to be engaging in tribalistic analysis here....Thomas was alleged to have harrassed Hill. If the qualifier "alleged" is an important part of your argument in the Clinton case it should at least be looked at in the Thomas case.

I most assuredly said nothing to the contrary of that, nor would I. I believed Hill, but that's just a matter of my belief, and I would never claim as a fact that Thomas harrassed her.

I have no problem believing that any political party with too much power will become corrupt. I sorta expect it. I have no trouble at all imagining that the Foley/Hastert scandal could easily happen with leftwing Democrats and/or Greens or other people I'd like in power. Hopefully it would take many years before that level of complacency would be reached.

Which is why I'm not very interested in the Foley scandal, frankly. I'd be disappointed if this scandal is the main reason why the Republicans lose control of the House. Not so disappointed that I am opposed to using the scandal to expose how corrupt the current Republicans happen to be. But the NYT carried a story the other day about how evangelicals in Virginia weren't letting the Foley/Hastert scandal determine how they're going to vote, and given their (rather appalling) beliefs, that makes perfect sense.

To answer Andrew's question, I wouldn't vote Republican if Foley and Hastert were Democrats. I might vote Green.

But Andrew, don't you think that there are some broad outlines that divide the two poles? Or do you think that if we just found a way to shake everything up, people might end up in the opposite tribe? You got quite upset when someone suggested that your positions was an 'unthinking' one, yet this post approaches the suggestion that everyone's position is not the result of careful thought, but of some random alignment. This is not to deny the existence of tribalism (it is the only explanation for the 30 odd percent that still supports Bush that doesn't have me slitting my wrists) but that you seem to assign it a value in excess of what it actually is.

An interesting example of your thought experiment (though probably not in the way you think) is the fact that African Americans left the Republican party for the Dems. The exodus to the Dems apparently occurred not with the advent of the Southern strategy, but when Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce, asked Robert Moton and a "Colored Advisory Commission of influential African American conservatives" to report on the Greenville floods, which was suppressed with the promise to support land reform. However, after Hoover's election, he ignored Moton, which set the stage for the African American swing to the Dems. So what seems to be required is an coalescing act to shift people. The question for me is whether this administration's behavior constitutes such an act.

I was taking the narrow view in my earlier comment by focusing just on the Foley thing. If you (Andrew) want us to imagine a situation where the Democrats propose unnecessary wars complete with pro-torture policies and if you further stipulate that at least a sizeable chunk of the Republican base was strongly opposed to these policies, then, yeah, I'd probably switch parties. Or strongly consider it--the Republicans are pretty bad on other issues too, but if they were opposed to the hypothetical Democrats with their torture centers and imperialist wars, I'd hold my nose and make the change.

The locus classicus for this idea, that there are people whose entire view of the world is based on rooting for a side, so that it quickly limits a participant's ability to acknowledge facts, predict the consequences, or set an appropriate value on anything, is Orwell's Notes on Nationalism In the course of that essay "Nationalism" comes to mean our emotional attachment to any group we identify with in this way, just as "tribalism" does in this post.

Quoth the Sebastian:

You seem to be engaging in tribalistic analysis here....Thomas was alleged to have harrassed Hill.
Not just her, but a sizable number of female subordinates as well, one of whom was scheduled to testify at the Thomas hearings (and whose account of how Thomas harassed her was published a decade or so back in a book from Spy Magazine. Nasty stuff.)

Leaving behind a group where one is accepted and that nominally shares your goals is difficult, made more so when the alternative is a group that derides your beliefs and shows little inclination to welcome you to its ranks.

American political parties have a long history of being somewhat rubbery as to their ideological bent, and will shift over time to maintain power. I think many people don't see much difference between them because, over time, they observe this behavior. I think alliegance is tribal only as to the "base" of voters in a party.

I am in the Democratic base, and have rarely found a Republican candidate whose ideology is an acceptable alternative to a competing Democratic alternative. I am less motivated by personal traits (unless clearly bad) than beliefs and likely policy actions of a candidate. I think the more common trend of the unhappy tribal base is to not vote or vote for a third party candidate rather than cross the aisle. And that is perfectly acceptable since our two party system offers so few choices. The parties notice such protest votes and may alter positions to win those votes.

For example, if the Democratic alternative stunk, would I vote for a pro-life, anti-gay, anti-environment, big business pandering Republican (i.e., bankruptcy bill, tax cuts for the rich, corporate pork, etc)? Very , very unlikely. Expecially these days when the Republicans have made it such a point to drive moderates out of the party.

Andrew (and I don't mean everyone named Andrew):

You are a blight on tribalism and I hope you keep it up.

Then this, just as I was removing the war paint:

"You share the same needs, after all, and a group of raiders can secure food and other necessities much more quickly by stealing them from other humans who have gone to the trouble of growing crops, making clothing, and so on."

I don't know what the New Deal has to do with this. See how things get started? ;)

Also: I'm a registered Republican and I want to make clear that I exempt myself from all rants regarding the Republican Party. Haven't voted Republican in any way, except the primaries, since 1990.

As to Monica Lewinsky, specifically, and not including unwanted harrassment by Clinton of other women, I differ with the strict feminist readings AND, of course, the Republican Party's cynical manipulation of the incident. (please, Lucianne Goldberg, the doyen of thrilling favors for the Nixon campaign apparatus?)

If I had a daughter like Monica Lewinsky, I'd keep her off the elevator with Clinton, too. Because she might be the one who pushes the stop button between floors and they might like each other too much, and he might actually have met his match, much to his pleasure and hers.

Of course, a mature, sensible individual (in the sexual realm), who realized his superior power in many ways was an unfair advantage, would have sent this young, emotionally immature, but of age, subordinant on her way, pizza intact. But I don't think Monica is given enough credit for her ambitions, which have proven throughout human history to possess certain countervailing, but misguided, power(s).

A single woman and feminist can be promiscuous, lusty, and sexually provocative and run the country or a corporation and make Bill Gates money. She should be good at everything, and yippee for that, as long as she keeps it in its appropriate place (at least keep it off the escalators boys and girls) and realizes that an uptight world rarely lets fun go unpunished. She can also say "No" whenever she wants and have that be the end of it, regardless of where the elevator is and what base the runner is on.

The problem with Thomas and his alleged transgressions (I disagree with the Democratic Party's cynical manipulation of this information, too) is that he might have been a bounder (NOT approving of harrassment here), like Clinton, but then he had the audacity to claim that he couldn't find the word "bounder" in the Constitution, so He couldn't possibly be a bounder. We didn't even get a wink from him.

As to Cleek's link, some people are afflicted with extreme heaviosity.

Speaking of wacky tribalism, I was surfing the intarwubs last night for details on the WI-08 race featuring one John Gard, once memorably described as being the kind of guy other College Republicans would beat up for being too much of a douchebag. [Your garden-variety party operative, IOW, as well as one of the biggest tools I've ever had the misfortune to meet.] Ran across a conservative Wisconsin blog where, I kid you not, he was being described as a RINO, a Democrat and a liberal for... raising taxes and having once said nice things about a Democrat.

That's it. For that, the individuals struck John Gard, GOP Douchebag Extraordinaire, from the Republican tribe and declared him a Democrat.

The real power of tribalism as a political force, IMO, is not that it defines who you are, it's that it allows -- indeed, requires -- you to define yourself by who you're not, regardless of whether you're distinguishing yourself from others or just a caricature thereof. As the reinforcing cycle sets in, it creates bonds of loyalty far beyond rationality or even simple irrationality; it allows the creation of a completely alternate worldview in which all information is automatically spun to conform to existing "tribal" tropes irrespective of any factual basis. Spun, or eliminated out-of-hand as "not conforming to known reality", as I think the Amnion put it in The Gap Cycle. It's the dissociation that I think is one of the driving forces behind the polarization and, frankly, the disintegration of American politics nowadays, and it needs to be stopped.

And by the by:

Andrew, quite honestly, I would have no problem with crossing the aisle.

I wouldn't either, but being a lefty I'd want to cross the aisle back to the left -- the Greens or something like that, I guess. Hell, I haven't voted for a genuinely lefty party in years, the Democrats being neither. Rather than pro forma crossing of the aisle, though, I'd much prefer it if the political system re-realigned to some semblance of sanity and centrism so that "crossing the aisle" could mean "willing to make compromises" and cease being synonymous with "making common cause with the crazy".

[cf dmbeaster's post above, too.]

"I'd much prefer it if the political system re-realigned to some semblance of sanity and centrism so that "crossing the aisle" could mean "willing to make compromises" and cease being synonymous with "making common cause with the crazy"."

Amen

Anarch:

part of what I find so dangerous about the Bush Administration: I think there are significant elements which do not believe they're doing the right, moral thing because they simply don't care about rightness or morality.

I really don't think this is true. It may appear to you they don't care about right and wrong, because from your perspective what they're doing is so clearly about maintaining their own power. But in their minds, there's nothing more important for the well-being of the U.S. than that they stay in power, because their political opponents would lead us to ruin. Thus, anything goes -- lying, torture, illegal wars, etc. -- however regrettable it might be.

From this point of view, they ARE acting within a moral framework that they truly believe in. Of course, as I say, this was also exactly Saddam's worldview regarding his rule.

A second to Jon (s)’s 2:06 comment!

Anarch,

Whose morality is in question? Because my morality is not your morality does not mean that you aren’t moral or care about moral consequences, though it may appear that way to me if you ignore my moral code (unless we spell morality with a capital “M” – back to tribalism? :) ). Or, (in re “I don't believe that Saddam believed, in any meaningful sense, that he was doing the "right" or "moral" thing”) the “rightness” of many of his actions (e.g. invading Kuwait) made quite a bit of sense from his perspective as a head of state and had considerable domestic “moral” support, and I find it difficult to believe that he would deliberately make immoral decisions to the detriment of his tribe (either Sunni or Iraq as a nation) and ultimately to his own power as their leader.

Lastly, in re the ancient human/hominoid behavioral programming: Why can’t we be more like Bonobos and less like Chimps (that is, sex as conflict resolution)? What happened there along the way? :) I’m crossing the aisle and voting a straight Bonobo ticket (party slogan: “Condoms and bananas for everyone!”).

I don’t pay, thanks.

I'd eat glass before I voted for a Republican, but I'm not a tribal Democrat. I've repeatedly abandoned the tribe for an alternative to the left.

Sorry you're not feeling sufficiently warmly welcomed, Andrew; but then, by your analysis, there was no reason to think you would be, eh?

Most of the consequences of tribalism can be explained by confirmation bias. The power of confirmation bias should not be underestimated - it's subtle and pervasive, and very hard to fix. The whole point of double blind trials and peer review is to avoid exactly this sort of problem.

Kurt Vonnegut on Tribalism from "Breakfast of Champions":

There was no immunity to cuckoo ideas on Earth. And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: "Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content didn't matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity." The ideas Earthlings held didn't matter for hundreds of thousands of years, since they couldn't do much about them anyway. Ideas might as well be badges as anything.

...

"Patty Keene was stupid on purpose, which was the case with most women in Midland City. The women all had big minds because they were big animals, but they did not use them much for this reason: unusual ideas could make enemies, and the women, if they were going to achieve any sort of comfort and safety, needed all the friends they could get. So, in the interests of survival, they trained themselves to be agreeing machines instead of thinking machines. All their minds had to do was to discover what other people were thinking, and then they thought that, too."

...

"You know what truth is? It's some crazy thing my neighbor believes. He tells me, and I say, 'Yeah, yeah -- ain't it the truth?'"


But in their minds, there's nothing more important for the well-being of the U.S. than that they stay in power, because their political opponents would lead us to ruin. Thus, anything goes -- lying, torture, illegal wars, etc. -- however regrettable it might be.

I certainly think that's true of a large number of people in the Administration, absolutely, but that's not the point I was making. There are others -- Cheney, for example, or Rove -- for whom I simply don't think that's true. It's my personal read, naturally, I'm not claiming any special knowledge here, but I genuinely don't get the sense from either of those two that they genuinely believe that Democrats would lead the country into ruin and so they're simply doing what is necessary. I get the sense that they want to win; that elections and political power and all the concomitant lucre and policy-making abilities are simply ways of keeping track of how much they're winning. There's likely a figleaf of The Greater Good in there -- again, I'm arguing that they're amoral, not immoral -- but it's just that, a superficial covering of a moral void beneath.

[I'm not saying either Cheney or Rove is out to destroy America or anything that fanciful; I am saying, as I said previously, that such moral concerns seem to me to be fundamentally irrelevant to their considerations.]

In a similar vein, I stand by what I said about Saddam. I don't dispute that he wanted to raise Iraq to prominence, but I don't believe for a moment he cherished any altruistic desires, twisted though they might have been, towards the Iraqi people per se; from what I've read, he was only interested in how Iraq's magnificence reflected upon his greater glory. Kim Jong Il I think is similar, as vastly contrasted with, say, Ahmediniinanafofanalanadingjad [thanks, Stephen Colbert!] or Mao. On the fascist side of the curve, Himmler appears to have genuinely believed that what the Nazis were doing was awful-but-necessary (viz. the Poznan speech), as did an enormous number of rank-and-file Nazis (viz. Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men); conversely, Heydrich and Mengele (to name but a few) seem to have been fairly immune to moral considerations.

[As to the Big H Himself, I follow the later theories of Alan Bullock that Hitler was originally a cynical manipulator who ultimately fell for his own delusions of grandeur. YMMV.]

Long story short, I'm really leery about imputing a particular motive -- even if it's one as simple and plausible as "trying to do good" -- on a bunch of people whose sole similarity is that they've achieved enormous power. Naturally, you're free to disagree... for indeed, we are truly the Tribe of the Big Tent ;)

Oh, and speaking of tribalism (and in re some of the issues raised on the “Government and Labor” thread): If any of you get the chance, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin (http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/) is an excellent case study in how corporate/capital interests get made over into collective, popular identity. If you can’t do the tour, at least check out the six bas-relief panels above the entrance as they very effectively convey the message, the story, the museum is promoting inside.

Great post, Andrew. And on a topic that is both fundamental to the bitching that goes on daily in the blogosphere and yet incredibly undersdiscussed.

I think we need to draw a line between exposition and apologetics, though. The first step is saying 'this is an aspect of human nature, and part of the human condition is to be cursed to fight it every day'. The important second step is saying 'but we can struggle to do better, and the struggle is worth it'.

The second step is the realm of ethics, of religion, and (I believe) a superior brand of politics that voters would respond to if their leaders weren't so cynical.

I think a major part of the problem with Democratic politicians is that they believe that they work to represent 'our better selves' (financing the state as a form of generosity and self-sacrifice, diplomatic engagement as a form of compassion, rights for the accused as a form of justice) vs a party that represents 'our worse selves' (let me keep my money, eliminate threats to me, locking up some innocent people is an acceptable cost to make the world safer for me), and yet they mistrust whether the voters will respond to a call to our better selves, so they contort and message-test and try to find some way to make being generous sound more selfish.

If the Democrats weren't such buffoons and if they had faith in US citizens' ability to respond to a call to ethical conduct, they'd blanket the political conversation with calls for Americans to be more compassionate, more courageous, more generous, and to find those qualities in Democratic policies. And they would have no problem courting Christians, because there's a major overlap with the essential message of Christ.

Why don't they? Why do they follow the GOP down the road of tribalism and Rovian divisiveness? I dunno.

With regards to crossing the aisle, the Washington Monthly has published seven essays from notable Conservatives on why the Republican's deserve to lose the House of Representatives.

While perhaps not actually voting for Democrats, these Republicans acknowledge it is time to take a seat on the bench for the sake of saving conservatism.

Several of them focus on the sober realization that a divided government is always historically better than a unified government where there are no checks against power.

Essays here


There's lots of other good Vonnegut quotes, too, none of which I can recall. Something about penguins, and the value of money, but it's been lots of years since I read that one.

None of which ought to be confused with being completely relevant to anything at all outside of his books, though. Witness: Breakfast of Champions, and how each new male character was introduced.

Or maybe I just kid myself that it's irrelevant.

Because my morality is not your morality does not mean that you aren’t moral or care about moral consequences, though it may appear that way to me if you ignore my moral code (unless we spell morality with a capital “M” – back to tribalism? :) )...I find it difficult to believe that he would deliberately make immoral decisions to the detriment of his tribe (either Sunni or Iraq as a nation) and ultimately to his own power as their leader.

To reiterate briefly: you're confusing immorality with amorality. The number of people who are self-consciously immoral -- that is, who have a well-defined internal sense of right and wrong, and consciously choose the latter -- is almost negligible. The number of people who more or less lack a moral compass at all is, I think, much higher and a much greater problem. [They're dwarfed by thsoe who believe in their own rectitude, of course, so there at least we agree.] I'm sure Cheney and Rove are self-consciously moral when they choose to be; I'm saying that, as a general rule of thumb, they don't appear think about morality at all.

In case I'm not clear, I'm referring to "morality" at the corporate or national scale, not the individual one. I'm sure Cheney doesn't randomly kick his dog or his daughter just 'cause, for example; I'm not at all sure that he doesn't follow to similar behaviors when you're talking neither dogs nor daughters, but companies and nations.

Let's try that again:

Essays here

Should have used the Preview button.

Kevin Drum asks an interesting question:

Of course, the part I've never really understood is our reluctance to give them the one thing they've consistently asked for over many decades: diplomatic recognition and some kind of security guarantee. After all, what's the downside? Treaty or not, if North Korea provoked a war we'd declare them in default of their obligations and then squash them. Recognition and security guarantees literally cost us nothing.

But ten consecutive presidents of both parties have declined to offer this, so there must be more to it. But what?

Why did Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson and Kennedy all decline to do that (I don't really count Eisenhower because he is the one obtained the truce)?

I've wondered the same about Iran. We could give them diplomatic recognition and if they abused the negotiation process we could cut ties again. Is there some diplomatic nicety about it that I don't understand?

Anarch,

If winning is related to individual and tribal survival or gain (who gets to breed, whose offspring survive, etc.) isn’t the effort to win at “all costs” an extension of a very deep and strong moral imperative?

-“I don’t believe for a moment he cherished any altruistic desires”

Who does, practically speaking? Reciprocal altruism, perhaps, but that’s a different animal.

“[H]is greater glory” did not take place in a vacuum.

Is there some diplomatic nicety about it that I don't understand?

Or Cuba, for that matter. If we can normalize relations with Vietnam, why not Iran, NK, Cuba?

A note about my elevator story: it is from before Clinton ran for President. I believed (no evidence other than that I couldn't imagine its being false) that a number of people had sat Clinton down and said: This Must Stop if you're going to run for President, and that Clinton was smart enough to understand that this was true. I also believed, though not with as much certainty, that he probably made some effort to stop. I had no clue whether or not he actually did stop. But I didn't really know one way or the other whether it was an ongoing problem as of 1992.

I can't remember who I supported in the 1992 primaries, but it wasn't Clinton. That wasn't really why, though: it mattered to me, but not as much as a lot of other things a President might or might not do.

That said, I don't agree that it's not sexual harassment as long as you're willing to respect the answer 'no'. Not being willing to accept that answer makes it worse, of course, as well as taking you one step further down the road that leads from sexual harassment to sexual assault. But one of the problems with sexual harassment of someone by that person's supervisor, let alone by the President, is that the person might not know whether saying 'no' will involve some cost s/he really doesn't want to pay, and should not have to pay.

When, for instance, the second reader on my undergrad thesis asked me out a few weeks before he was due to grade it (which would count for a big chunk of my honors average), one of the things that infuriated me was the thought: I said no, but then I have the confidence to do that. I know that about myself, but he has no right to take it for granted. For all he knew, he might have been putting someone in a position where she sat uncomfortably through the whole evening, waiting for the next shoe to drop, just because she was not willing to tank her chances for honors.

In fact, he intended no quid pro quo. I know that because I said no and got an A. But I didn't know that when I said no, any more than he knew that I'd be willing to say no even at the cost of getting honors.

Which is why the harasser's benign motives do not matter: s/he has no way at all to know that the victim will know about them. If people wandered around with accurate thought balloons over their heads at all times, things would be different; as it is, hitting on your subordinates is just wrong.

It's just not as important to me as, say, allowing NK to get nuclear weapons, or hyping the intelligence to get us into an unnecessary war in which a whole lot of people die and the Middle East is plunged into even more chaos than it was in before, or even, for that matter, the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Anarch,

-“you're confusing immorality with amorality:

No. I understand your point. But, “a well-defined internal sense of right and wrong,” and “The number of people who more or less lack a moral compass at all”…? Hence: “unless we spell morality with a capital “M” – back to tribalism? :)”

-"In case I'm not clear, I'm referring to "morality" at the corporate or national scale, not the individual one."

Me too.

If we can normalize relations with Vietnam, why not Iran, NK, Cuba?

we've gotta have someone to hate, don't we?

we've gotta have someone to hate, don't we?

Isn't that what the Yankees are for?

Plus there's always Illinois Nazis.

Well, I think we've identified our point of disagreement:

If winning is related to individual and tribal survival or gain (who gets to breed, whose offspring survive, etc.) isn’t the effort to win at “all costs” an extension of a very deep and strong moral imperative?

Phrased like this? No. It's potentially an imperative, sure, but I wouldn't classify it as an inherently moral one -- irrespective of whether or not I felt the particular aim to be moral myself.

This reminds me a little of a conversation I had with a friend who argued that no-one ever did anything they didn't want to, because the mere fact of acting showed volition in that regard. My counter-argument was that that's a vacuous redefinition: yes, you can define "want to" (if you want to ;) ) in such a way as to be synonymous with action, but it eliminates an important, and now unformalizable, distinction in the process. There are notions inherent in "want to" that don't exist in the mere fact of having committed a particular action and it's precisely those notions we're trying to encapsulate by using the former instead of the latter. I'm feeling that something of a similar game is being played with the word "morality" here; if one defines morality in such a way as to render all actions moral, then yes, necessarily everyone acts morally. My point is that I think there's a distinction worth preserving here that admits of people acting selfishly, or cruelly, or without regard to moral concerns where in all cases I mean these as negative relative to their own, internal moral valuations. To that end, it's certainly possible that Saddam could have believed he was acting morally -- as I said above, I think that Mao believed (in his own twisted way) that he was raising China to a new Golden Age despite the unimaginable death he caused -- but I don't believe that he did, even given his own twisted notions of morality.

[Of course, I am in some sense eliminating "trivial" moralities here, e.g. the psychopathic morality that says "The only good is my happiness", and I'm doing this for precisely the same reason that I distinguished between desire and action above. YMMV.]

But since we have an actual moral authority here, hilzoy, got anything to add? (:

otto--
it's true that bonobos generally hump rather than fight (as Frans de Waal says, they solve power questions with sex, whereas chimps solve sex and mating questions via power), but physical conflicts are not rare. In particular, female bonobos will beat on males who they view as acting above their station (like by taking food rather than letting the females take it all and then having to beg them for it). It might still be a better deal for a male, considering they have sex something like 7 times a day . . . .

A simple thought experiment for the Democrats in the audience: suppose (again, this is a thought experiment, so we can be very farfetched here) that 20 years from now the Democratic Party, having taken power in 2008 after the disasters of the Bush administration and the Republican Party became common knowledge, has become disturbingly corrupt.

That's pretty much a given, any party in power without real competition will become corrupt.

The Republican Party, while not obviously corrupt, appears to generally espouse the same beliefs you always hated: trimming government aid to the poor, cutting taxes, helping business, etc.
Their usual positions...

But the Democrats have reached a point where they're no longer doing what you like, either: they're selling legislation to favored constituencies, and their sole goal appears to be to retain power rather than to accomplish their stated goals as a party.
You mean like the Clinton Administration in the 90's giving us NAFTA, WTO , Welfare Reform despite the opposition from the base of the Party.

How difficult would it be for you to cross the aisle and vote Republican? Could you do it?
Hell would freeze over, otoh I could and did vote for the Green Party in 96 & 2000.

"In fact, he intended no quid pro quo. I know that because I said no and got an A."

hil, hil. Still so naive.

You think that the fact he gave you an A afterwards proves that he intended no quid pro quo before hand?

Of course he intended a quid pro quo: in particular, he intended *you to understand it* as a quid pro quo.

When you didn't do what he wanted in response to the implied threat, then he was left with the option of giving you the A you deserved, or explaining his decision to give a bad grade for a paper that was clearly an A, to a student that clearly deserved honors, and who had powerful patrons as well. And so he backed down.

So, sure the threat was there. The fact that he folded when you called his bluff doesn't mean he wasn't threatening. It just means he was working the way weasels always work.

...But then, it's your irreproachable naivete that has helped protect you at times.

It might still be a better deal for a male, considering they have sex something like 7 times a day

[woody allen voice]
uh.. think of the chafing. and the apologizing.
[/woody allen voice]

Hilzoy:

I agree completely on the nature of sexual advances (harrassment) in certain environments where other power relationships are at play or at work, whichever applies.

I'm just pointing out that Monica, stupidly but not naively, showed up at the President's Oval Office (which I believe has a sign on the door stating "Most Powerful Supervisor of Everyone") with a pizza for His Honor. It's a wonder there was space in the room for the pizza considering the number and size of the thought balloons.

Your reader should have let you finish the course, turned in his grades, and then chased you all over the place with fully worded and polite, gentlemanly thought balloons. It could have been worse; you might have received an Incomplete.

I still have the occassional thought balloon but my wife pops the ones that don't expressly address her. Sorry, some of my thought balloons express unrealistic and anonymous theories. They are completely inaccurate.

Hilzoy, you have a definite point.

My feeling about where a proposition becomes sexual harassment is: if someone I'm not attracted to propositions me, I'll say no. If they take "no" for an answer, and don't attempt to damage me by any means whatsoever (including malicious gossip/backbiting) because I said no, then in my book, it wasn't sexual harassment: it was Clueless Guy syndrome (striving not to be sexist, still, my impression as a lesbian is that men are either a lot worse at picking up signals that a person is absolutely uninterested in them, or a lot more optimistic about their chances: probably a combination of both).

That said, if anyone propositioned me in the manner Paula Jones describes of Bill Clinton, while I still wouldn't call it sexual harassment or attempted rape if the guy did actually take no for an answer, I'd still be terrified until I got safely out of the door of his hotel room, and would beat my own speed records getting to the elevator. The presence of the other man would be scary in itself, and being summoned to an employer's hotel room by a security guard wouldn't exactly appeal as a technique, regardless of whether I found the employer attractive or not. But if I say "I can't believe Clinton wouldn't know that", I actually don't know whether he would or he wouldn't: Clueless Het Guys can be, well, pretty damn clueless about how their behavior looks to the woman they're approaching. (Sometimes if you point out to them how they'd react if a man was coming on to them the way they come on to women, they get the picture: more often that not this turns into a round of But That's Different!)

Still: I have worked with plenty of guys whom I considered to be Clueless Het Guys. And there's a world of difference between a guy who's so clueless he doesn't figure out I'm not remotely interested till I say no, and a sexual harasser who doesn't stop after "no".

kid bitzer: since I actually knew the guy in question and you did not, I'll continue to believe my version for the moment. I am not, in fact, particularly naive, I don't think, nor inclined to a priori conclusions about the motives of people I have never met. There are other people I think were just sexually harassing me with purely evil intent; if you missed the story about how I ended up backing one of my TAs around a table with a switchblade when he tried something like this -- well, then you did. Oh well.

John T: I completely agree about Monica L. Ugh. (No offense to our ugh intended.)

by the way, I also have one-step-removed evidence of Clinton's pathological tendency to grope women, and of the warnings it gave rise to. The guy is just sick.

And I thought that his behavior with Lewinsky was wrong on about four different levels, even before he started lying about it under oath (at which point it seemed clear to me that he should resign or be impeached and convicted).

That's part of why I find it so annoying to read lies like this from Andrew:

"Those same groups sang a very different tune later in the decade...."

I was against Thomas because he was a harasser and a liar, and I was against Clinton because he was a harasser and a liar. There were plenty of other liberals like me, too.

"around a table with a switchblade"

yeah, I missed that story. But I do have strong a priori feelings about tables with switchblades.

Jes, my position as a heterosexual male is that men ARE a lot worse at picking up signals that someone is not interested in them, but better at making up signals that someone is not interested in them. And yes, we are overly optimistic about the whole doggone thing, right up until we shoot ourselves.

Let's face it. Clinton is a special case. He overachieves at everything.

Clueless Het Guy

Gawd. Throw in a heaping cup of committment-phobia and you've encapsulated by entire high school and college romantic life. Figuring out tribalism becomes a simple problem in comparison to figuring out if people like you.

I'll back up John and LJ here, adding that part of the problem is that a lot of het men are (or at least were, dunno how true it is for the younger generation) so used to women scrupulously not trying to lead them on that we sometimes mistake openness for interest. I have one female friend, in fact, who is hit on constantly -- hell, even I do it when I'm not thinking despite the fact that we have no romantic chemistry whatsoever -- simply because she's a very open, honest person who looks you in the eye when she's talking and generally seems interested in what you have to say. [And she usually is, just not like that.] This is so anomalous that, well, it seems like it ought to mean something even though it doesn't.

There's also the simple fact -- usually stated this bluntly, at least when women aren't around -- that for most het men, a) mass rejection is simply a fact of life so b) [this may be the strictly Het Guy thing here] you should ask out everyone you're interested in to maximize your chances of getting something. [How objectifying that last "something" is depends on the individual, natch.] I have a number of male friends who've taken this to near-ridiculous extremes and y'know what? Despite the near-indifference with which they're often received, it works for them. Go figure.

I have no problem -- well, not no problem, but not a big problem -- with guys being clueless. As a clueless person myself, I couldn't really complain about that, now could I? One just shouldn't hit on subordinates, is all.

Andrew: maybe I should try posting the letters I wrote to Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, as a sort of nostalgic whatnot/illustration of what happens when I'm upset by people in my tribe. (There are two, both longish. Naturally, I didn't expect him to answer them, and sure enough, he didn't.)

(No offense to our ugh intended.)

None taken.

On tribalism, I will just note, as I believe I have here before in response to a similar post of Andrew's, that in a recent negotiation seminar I attended an anecdote was relayed about a study where two groups of lawyer's were given identical sets of facts about a tort case and each group was asked to objectively evaluate how much in damages the plaintiff should receive. The only difference was that one group was told it represented the plaintiff and the other the defendant, but again it was emphasized that an "objective" value of the case needed to be determined. Those who ostensibly represented the "plaintiff" came up with a value that was much, much larger than those who represented the "defendant." All of which is to say whose "team" you're on matters much more than people might think.

I'd be on John Thullen's team, if he had one, and sometimes bob's, though given my proximity to the White House, not too often as to the latter such as to, well, let's just say I want to avoid any Imperial entanglements.

As for Bill and Monica, pardon my French but c'est la vie?

Anarch,

Thanks for identifying “our point of disagreement” and the dialogue.

“Notions inherent in ‘want to,’” “inherently moral,” have to, free will, . . . Perhaps not so much vacuous as dependent on definitions and applicability of free will?* But I understand your point about “negative relative to their own, internal moral valuations,” and it is an important consideration (but that so often comes after unknown negative consequences follow from pursuing moral imperatives, doesn’t it?)

To continue a conciliatory tack, I’m mostly in agreement with you on the question of morality. When I see the actions of Bush, Cheney, Saddam, and their Ilk, I think, “Ye gods! What are these people, sociopaths?!” But why do I say that? Because their behavior deviates from my moral code. It is not that they have no internal moral compass, just that its “true” (True?) north is set much farther to the right than mine and points the direction for a different tribe. Or, if I were in their shoes, to include socioeconomic background; ties to money, power, tribe; etc., would I behave any differently? (Ego says, “Yes.” Data indicates otherwise. :) )

On a practical tack, if we dismiss their behavior as amoral, it seems to me to only serve to make it harder to understand their motives and easier to dismiss them (e.g. Kim, recently) as dangerous lunatics. Not helpful, I think.

*I don’t have an answer for free will/”want to.” I am skeptical of its use because it is so often used as a control mechanism for punishment addicts.

JakeB,

Indeed.

-“female bonobos will beat on males who they view as acting above their station”

Maybe we could use a little of this too. But Helen Thomas gets sent to the back of the class.

Cleek,

Hahahahaha.

One just shouldn't hit on subordinates, is all.

It's interesting, most of the student clubs here in Japan have a very strict rule that kohai (juniors) shouldn't date sempai (seniors, both not related to years, but to location in the hierarchy) And when I have to counsel students, there are always 3 or 4 times every year where some female kohai is dating a male sempai, but they can't let anyone know. I'm always at a loss to know what to say, though I have occasionally found that the sempai is often using the 'we have to keep this secret' as a way to fool around. Having a rule seems to make it possible to use that rule in a way that is the opposite of what it was intended for.

the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Hil – now you have an issue with that? Welcome! Ha!

I can’t seem to keep from poking you with a stick today. Sorry :)

Great posts here today – everyone. It’s why I come back.

OCSteve -- and I, for one, am glad you do. In case I don't say so often enough, for me, arguing is fun, and if I ever mean it personally, you'll know. Heh heh. (The last time I did this, half the site was begging me to stop and the other half was pulling up chairs to watch. They could all tell the difference.)

I hate to keep harping on Clinton in an otherwise interesting discussion of tribalism, but I don't hate it so much that I'm not going to do it.

At least two persons in this thread claim to have something like second-hand knowledge that Clinton "harrassed" someone at some time and some place. I would just like to say that there are reasons, and very good ones related to reaching the best possible determination of truth, that second-hand testimony is not allowed in court.

To those making those statements, if the persons who passed the information to you claim to have first-hand knowledge of what they were talking about, I heartily encourage you to ask them to go public with their claims, or at least contact a historian. The Clinton story is not over; the book is not shut; chapters are being written, and I think it is important that the truth come out, whatever it may be. First-hand stories, including details that allow the credibility of the stories to be tested, are important aids to determination of the truth.

Absent that, I am unimpressed to hear of vague second-hand claims of harrassment against a person I know to have been irrationally hated by millions of Americans.

And to those of you reading these claims of knowledge here, bear in mind that if you repeat them elsewhere you are getting into the realm of third-hand internet-sourced information, which is about as reliable as Bush's take on the latest news from Iraq.

lj:

It's interesting, most of the student clubs here in Japan have a very strict rule that kohai (juniors) shouldn't date sempai (seniors, both not related to years, but to location in the hierarchy)

Does sempai in this context mean club officer or people already in the club when you decide to join? I.e., is the rule designed to prevent abuse of authority or to discourage dilettantes from joining just so they can hit on hot club members?

"I should try posting the letters I wrote to Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal"

yeah, ditto. Long emails, doubtless still stored somewhere on the Secret Service Server, but I can't find my copies anywhere.

Short version:

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Only mine was shorter by missing out the name of god thing, this not being among my stock rhetorical flourishes.

Morinao,
no it only means 'upperclassman' or 'person who got in the club a year or more ahead of you. I think the rule is designed to prevent the former, possibly because abuse of power relationships is a huge problem in Japanese contexts. In fact, many of the pre-war clubs were banned by the Occupation authorities because they felt they promoted a right-wing nationalistic mentality.

sorry, the former which is to prevent abuses of authority. Also, relationships between different levels can cause havoc with interpersonal relationships that form.

Quick responses:

1. The current political climate is poisoned. Bipartisanship is not possible; has not been possible since 2002. But that's a mere snapshot in time. 40 years ago, even 30 years ago, bipartisanship was routine. There were moderate and liberal Republicans even as there were bigotted and extremist Democrats. One could make one's vote decisions based on who one truly thought was a better candidate, because the candidates of both parties spanned the political spectrum. "Tribalist" party loyalties certainly existed... but not nearly as much, nor nearly as obdurate, as today.

2. There's a difference between voting the "straight Democratic ticket" because one is tribally loyal to the Democrats, and doing so for institutional reasons. To wit: At this point in time, I would vote for an egregious Democrat over a non-egregious Republican because I consider getting a Democratic majority in Congress to be essential. The candidate won't be the issue: Committee chairs, agenda setting, legislative priorities, and invesitgatory powers will be the issues. I cannot trust that a local Republican, no matter how much I think s/he is a good person and a worthy public servant, won't choose Party loyalty, or Bush loyalty, over the common good.

What would I do if, in the future, the Democratic Party degenerates as much as the GOP has?

Well, I'd need more details of Democratic decay than "selling legislation to favored constituencies, and their sole goal appears to be to retain power rather than to accomplish their stated goals as a party," and I'd need more details of Republican rehabilitation than "not obviously corrupt."

Will the Democrats have pursued as reckless and feckless a foreign policy as today's GOP? Will the Democrats have taken a wrecking ball to the Bill of Rights like today's GOP has? Will the Democrats have appointed to the Cabinet and the federal agencies individuals whose only qualification is cronyism and whose only goal is to destroy the agencies they oversee, as the GOP has done? Will the Democrats have used their authority to commit crimes against humanity and also to protect themselves from the consequences of doing so, as the GOP has done?

I think you're overlooking something about the state of the GOP today. The GOP hasn't become corrupt "merely" along the lines of its ostensible regard for conservative principles; has not become a charicature of conservative principles. It has betrayed those very principles wholesale; its brand of conservatism is unrecognizeable. It has also, along the way, betrayed the most basic principles of Americanism.

That Democrats might become corrupt is possible: they've been corrupt before. That Democrats might pursue counterproductive policies in pursuit of progressive goals is possible: that's happened, too.

But I don't see, I simply don't see, the Democrats becoming anywhere near as godawful in all ways imaginable as the GOP has managed. So much of what makes today's GOP hideous has to do with the Frankensteinian nature of today's GOP, with so many groups whose only common denominator seems to be a fear and hatred of the world outside their own cliques combined with an andamantine belief that their worldview is the only legitimate one.

Say what you will about Democrats, a lockstep belief that there's only one way to see the world - that only one group has the Mandate of Heaven, and everyone else doesn't even merit a place at the table - isn't among our failings.

Deepest thanks, CaseyL.

"The Republican Party, while not obviously corrupt, appears to generally espouse the same beliefs you always hated: trimming government aid to the poor, cutting taxes, helping business, etc. But the Democrats have reached a point where they're no longer doing what you like, either: they're selling legislation to favored constituencies, and their sole goal appears to be to retain power rather than to accomplish their stated goals as a party. How difficult would it be for you to cross the aisle and vote Republican? Could you do it?"

It depends on the Republican candidate. If he's a fundamentalist creationist type, or the Gamma Quadrant type of Republican whose thinking is completely alien to me, I'd probably not vote for either party.

If the guy was a reasonable person, a Hagel, or a pre-2000 McCain, I'd probably vote for the Republican. The first political contributions I ever made were to McCain in 2000, because I kinda liked him and loathed Bush so much, and would have preferred a McCain vs. Gore choice in November of that year.

Everyone's talking about sexual harassment, no one's talking about the fuzzy evolutionary history.

The biblical tale of Cain and Abel resonates because, while the very first humans may not have immediately begun bashing one anothers' skulls in, it's a near-certainty it didn't take long for them to start.

I'm sure the tendency to resort to violence was present in humans' ancestors and continued as we became more human.

You share the same needs, after all, and a group of raiders can secure food and other necessities much more quickly by stealing them from other humans who have gone to the trouble of growing crops, making clothing, and so on.

But nobody grew crops when humans were evolving. Agriculture is less than 15,000 years old. There's not much worth stealing from a hunter-gatherer except his mate.

"How difficult would it be for you to cross the aisle and vote Republican? Could you do it?"

That would depend entirely on the nature and character of the Republican Party that was then extent.

I'd vote for Teddy Roosevelt. But not for Joe McCarthy.

Not exactly a difficult question, really.

We could look at this as regards platforms, the same.

It's not as if the name of the party matters much.

In other words, this isn't remotely a question of "Tribalism and Politics," but of positions and characters and practices.

For me, at least.

The Democratic Party of the Civil War, and for more than half a century later was disgusting, after all.

Boo-wah the tribe.

The Democratic Party of Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats should have all been horsewhipped with the same whips they fantasized about.

So, tribes mean what?

I think I've mentioned, a few times, here, working for John Anderson, in 1980, incidentally, and registering as a Republican.

"arguing for, among other things, a 'one free grope' rule"

Um, wait, WTF?

I have no idea what this means, or where it comes from. Cite?

WTF?

I was pretty interested in that as well, and googling, say this from Reason magazine

While Willey's 60 Minutes appearance finally prompted strong words from Ireland, most feminists still took a "so what?" view of the whole thing. Gloria Steinem published an op-ed piece in The New York Times advancing what has become known as the "one free grope" theory: Clinton's alleged overtures to Jones and Willey, while boorish, did not amount to sexual harassment because he backed off when they said no.

It is interesting because it is obviously a phrase that doesn't turn up in Steinam's piece anywhere, so it is/was damn hard to defend against because it doesn't arise from the person's actual spoken words.

1)I decided during the Watergate affair that I would never vote for a Republican. I need to keep my word more than any Republican candidate needs my vote. I do not and never have considered myself a Democrat.

2)I try not to hold other people's tribalism against them, tho I fail consistently. I thought while I was reading this post of looking up the NT verses about leaving one's family behind, but I don't remember the particular gospel, and I guess it is silly.

3)About 25 years ago I was living in my original home area and working in a family business. My extended family meant I probably had 20 houses that would take me in. I had spent 3-4 years and was developing a network of friends. They were all as good as people can be. I had no complaints or greivances.

Without notice or warning, one morning I packed up my truck and drove 2000 miles to where I knew 2 people. I have not looked back. This could be a pathology. But I have a different perspective on tribalism and bonds than some.

Every "Us" creates a "Them"

There is also a pathology, but I cannot seem to shake that concept, either in the micro or macro aspects of public and private life.

Nou: There's not much worth stealing from a hunter-gatherer except his mate.

Her mate. ;-)

Shorter Andrew: Well, what if, like, the Democrats were all corrupt and inefficient and power hungry, and the Republicans weren't? Who'd you vote for then, huh?

The Plain People of the Internet: Yeah, right. Like that'd ever happen.

Andrew: Ha! Tribalism! You're all as bad as each other! (puts on special Marshall Wittman Bull Moose Hat of High-Minded Moral Equivalence)

The Plain People of the Internet: Whatever. (return to filling in New Yorker caption contests)

jes--

yeah, that one struck me as a false note, too.

I seriously doubt that long-term pair-bonding (aka monogamy, aka "his mate/her mate") is all that much older than agriculture.

hilzoy wrote: "I have also voted for Republicans in my day."

This may be part of the problem. I believe that republicans are more "tribal" than democrats, which makes rallying democrats uphill work. It seems to me that some want to resist this by being more tribal in the democratic party. Whether this is a conscious move or an "instinctive" reaction to the other side's strong loyalty I don't know.

kid bitzer: an anthropologist should easily be able to tell you whether monogamy is common in hunter/gatherer societies of today. If they are, it's reasonable to think that it was common in pre-agricultual times as well. From the very little I've read about it, I think they were.

ajay, was that a tribute to Myles na Gopaleen?

Harald/kid: Any anthropologist worth her salt will tell you (or so I've read) that it's unwise to make sweeping generalisations across hunter-gatherer societies. But, from what I've read, hunter-gatherer societies that tend not to store food also tend to be fairly egalitarian, and so there tend not to be high-ranking/rich men with multiple wives, nor do girls die in infancy leaving an artificially high proportion of boys. With the result that neither marriage-for-life monogamy* nor any form of polygamy are common in hunter/gatherer societies.

There's an interesting article here on childcare in a hunter-gatherer society. (PDF file)

The concept of "ownership", being able to own another human being - whether as a husband owns his wife, or as a father owns his children, or as in ownership of unrelated slaves - doesn't seem to exist very often in hunter/gatherer societies: therefore, the concept of "stealing" someone else's mate wouldn't really exist either, no more than we modernly think, if a woman leaves her husband for another partner, that the other partner has "stolen" her from her husband. To steal, you must have an owner.

*(or, as is more common in non-egalitarian societies, heterosexual relationships with lifelong sexual faithfulness demanded from the woman but not expected from the man)

I wasn't a huge Clinton fan but I voted for him because even at the time I saw Republicans as too much in hock to the religious right to support. I have no problems voting for one in principle, but in practice ...

Hilzoy, while I agree with your point about sexual harassment, how do we fit in the fact that some people in the same situations do want to go out on that date. I've had friends who've voluntarily dated teachers, bosses, etc.--while I can see the obvious drawbacks to the relationship, I'm uncomfortable with a flat Thou Shalt Not.

On my own advice, I've been looking over Notes on Nationalism, and it strikes me that hatred, antipathy for the other side, is the stronger motive in what we seem to be calling tribalism here. Rick Perlstein's article in the New Republic last month made this explicit: the Chicago billboard advertising a talk-radio station, "Liberals Hate It!" defines the bond that holds the Republican coalition together.

Orwell's striking illustration is the emotions surrounding the reports of the fighting in North Africa. These battles, between the British and the Germans and Italians led by Rommel, went back and forth for almost 2 years, and their seesaw character made the experience for the public like following a football team. So strong was the antipathy members of the intelligentsia felt toward the "Blimps," Britain's managerial class, that they not only openly rooted for the Germans, but believed they were sure to win. Orwell did not want them to win, and so had little difficulty seeing it was not likely, given how stretched they were, that they would.

The point isn't that the people Orwell was describing were Nazi-sympathizers: many were Communists, by that stage of the war adamantly anti-Nazi, and the rest wouldn't have ordinarily have been pro-Nazi in any ordinary sense. It was their hatred of the Blimps that made them cheer for the other side.

I agree with Hilzoy's point on sexual harrassment as a point of general morality, but not as a point of law. There are too many people who seem to want to date in the workplace. The legal standard should be something more annoying than asking once. That is the normative statement, and that is the direction it has evolved.

For purposes of the tribalism discussion, it evolved slowly that direction before Clinton and then jumped there almost immediately after his conduct was revealed.

On my own advice, I've been looking over Notes on Nationalism, and it strikes me that hatred, antipathy for the other side, is the stronger motive in what we seem to be calling tribalism here.

Ahem.

Just to complicate things some because I can, it's worth noting that tribes aren't all morally equivalent, either. The Iriquois, Navajo, and Cherokee nations, for instance, all survived their long losing encounter with the US, suffering but finding ways to balance their prior identities with modern challenges (and opportunities). They made it in ways that the late potlatchers (when gift-giving turned into destruction) and Ghost Dancers did not. Likewise, we can distinguish tribes based on their views of internal social roles, what constitutes honor in dealing with outsiders, their customs of war, the nature of their faith, and so on.

To say that a group is a tribe is not, in the end, to tell us very much about its morality.

I can't argue about hunter-gatherer mates, jesurgislac and kid, all I've got is a little background in Steven Pinker. No monogamy, huh?

Andrew,

It would help if you could be a little bit honest about the other tribe.

This is utter bullshit:

>>The Republican Party, while not obviously corrupt, appears to generally espouse the same beliefs you always hated: trimming government aid to the poor, cutting taxes, helping business, etc.<<

Democrats do not hate any of these things per se -- (1) social security and medicare, the most popular entitlement programs, mainly help the middle class and Clinton trimmed aid to the poor in the form of welfare reform; (2) no one hates tax cuts as general matter, when government is well run and the economy is growing, there may be opportunities to cut taxes without falling short of revenues -- that would be great; (3) Democrats like businesses and a great number are still free trade proponents (although there is a lot of debate about that) -- NO ONE with any amount of influence in the Democratic Party is against helping out U.S. businesses or somehow against capitalism. Even that "radical extremist" Ned Lamont is a successful businessman.

Stop believing what the most diehard members of your tribe say about the Democrats and you'll be better off.

And by the way, I grew up as a Republican in Connecticut and voted for Bush pere in 1992. I started to move away from the party around 1995-1996 when the social conservatives and crazy wingnuts like Limbaugh were really starting to dominate things. I eventually abandoned the party when it became clear that reasonable people just didn't have a voice in the party anymore.

It's gotten to the point now that John McCain is the "cooler head" in the Republican caucus -- that's goddamn frightening.

Haven't read the thread yet. But to respond to the question at the end of the original post:

If it were a Democratic president that was claiming the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without a trial and then torture them indefinitely, and a Democratic congress that was enabling it;

If it were a Democratic president who had messed up Iraq/Iran/North Korea this badly;

If it were a Democratic president who was so obviously unwilling to believe that he could ever do anything really wrong;

then I would be voting a straight Republican ticket. No doubt about it.

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Whatnot


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