Ever wonder why the Left is so adamant about defending Islam, despite the latter’s decidedly illiberal attitudes towards matters of prime importance to the Left (e.g. gay rights, women’s rights, marriage, abortion)? Ever wonder why, when a Muslim commits an atrocity, his allegiance to Islam is typically marginalized, but when a Christian commits an atrocity, his allegiance to Christianity is typically emphasized? Does it make sense that the Left puts so much effort into promulgating Islam’s “religion of peace” message when literally hundreds of millions of Muslims embrace beliefs that are far worse, as far as liberal ideals are concerned, than the Left’s traditional domestic opponents do?

How many of today’s left-right political conflicts seem illogical in this manner? How often do we see loyalists of one side or the other putting inordinate emphasis on something that seems in conflict with their core ideology, or seems to be of “mountain out of a molehill” status?

Why does this behavior seem increasingly common, especially with regard to anything that comes from Trump? This reality, succinctly expressed by comedian Norm Macdonald on Twitter, is a reflection of our tribalistic human nature, which prompts us to automatically side with our own, grant our own greater latitude, and by extension automatically oppose anything our opponents do.

 

Thus, it seems that an issue’s status on the Left vs the Right depends on who said something about it first.

Thus, if it’s the Right that first decried Islamic terror, the Left must find ways to argue the opposite.

Thus, if it’s the Right that first decried criminals coming into the country via immigration, the Left must find ways to diminish that plaint.

Thus, if it’s the Left that first advanced legalization of pot in order to end the useless destructiveness of its prohibition, the Right must find arguments to oppose legalization.

This contrarianism prompts entrenchment and hard-lining from the side to first raise an issue, and things eventually devolve into the absolutists on both sides taking control of the (if it can even be called so) debate.

Diminished or defenestrated in this behavior is actual consideration of the merits of an argument or a position. Consideration that your opponent might not be 100% wrong in all things is no longer an option. Why? Because if you dare not completely disagree with your opponents, some of your allies are going to challenge your tribal bona fides.

But, as Norm pointed out, this isn’t a worldview. This is schoolyard behavior, and it’s no way to conduct political debate.

Such contrarianism typically goes beyond the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says, at least superficially, because people defend their contrarianism by cobbling together some “logic.” How often, though, is this logic pretzel-shaped or straining credulity past breaking? How much of it is sophistry, or derived from logical fallacies, or dissonant? The answer is, if not “quite,” then at least “too often to be good for anybody.”

Who’s more likely to come to a logical conclusion on an issue, the person who is willing to at least consider what someone from the “other side” says, or the person who assumes the “other side” must be wrong?

Unfortunately, no one wants to be first to listen, because tribal pressure can be quite strong, and because fear of being outcast is deeply ingrained in our DNA. This is excused, by both sides, with the argument that “we have to play by their dirty rules,” and “if we take the high road, they’ll use it against us and win elections.”

Cynical political strategists may very well recognize this, and dog-whistle the other side into taking self-destructive positions on issues. The most obvious one of these, in the current environment, is the inexplicable whitewashing of the illiberal nature of Islamic beliefs. When there’s a steady stream of terrorist acts by people acting in the name of Islam, it’s hardly a defensible position to insist that there isn’t a problem, or that these are totally unrepresentative outliers. Of course most Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most of the members of any large group are merely people who want to live their lives as best they are able. But, when the Left goes to extreme lengths to champion a belief system that opposes their core values, we are justified in scratching our heads. And, when people make it clear that anything Trump does is Bad and must be opposed, there’s little or no reason to take their arguments seriously. This is doubly true when these are the same people who denounced and decried this same behavior under Obama.

What’s the way forward from here? If anything, things have become even more polarized, and anyone who tries to bridge the gap usually gets turned on by his own tribe. Thus, the “RINO” derogation. Thus, the viciousness of social justice warriors towards their own who are not fully “woke.”

The only glint of hope lies in the increase in the number of independents. That is, if you believe it. More than a few “independents” are merely party loyalists who pretend not to be. But, lets give this idea the benefit of the doubt, and assume that more and more people are indeed becoming disenchanted with party politics and tribal loyalty. That’s not good for the parties, and they should address it to try and recapture those voters. How? It must come from the rank-and-file, who must reject pure contrarianism. The first step? Find an issue where you agree with the other side, and cross the aisle.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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