There has been a trend in political books over the last couple of years: Don’t Burn This Book, How to destroy America in three easy steps, Why can’t we all get along? and Suicide of the west. All talking of how the western political landscape has seen a rise in tribalism.
Let me first explain what I mean by the phrase political catastrophising. I’m not sure if that phrase is widely used - a quick google search did not bring up anything in the vein of what I’m talking about. What I mean, when talking about political catastrophising, is the person you are debating or discussing with jumps to the extreme of what you're saying. Examples of this would be Trump is a fascist or people who want to raise taxes are accused of being communist. Neither of those things are true. David George Lloyd was one of the great politicians in the liberal tradition and he wanted to raise taxes. And Trump has cut taxes, regulation and reduced the size of the state and has allowed the federalism of the founding fathers to actually be the way he works with other states.
Now it is mainly in the US, with the constant fears of communism (which can be justified but not entirely) that centre left politicians like Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton were referred to as communist. Obama and Clinton can rightfully be called liberal but not communist. Wanting a basic form of universal healthcare, some bigger taxes and regulation does not make someone a communist. In Britain we seem to have a good tradition of debate and up until recently this could be said to be an American phenomenon.
However there has been a steady fraying of our ability to get along and both sides are to blame for this. If you are on the left, some on the right think you want to destroy western civilisation. If you are on the right, some on the left will think you are evil. From my own experience I have been labelled all things from a fascist to a racist. Why am I referred to as these things? Simply because I believe in controlling borders and I’m proud to be British.
Just because someone believes that marriage is a union of man and woman only does not mean they are a homophobe; it just means they hold religion-based traditional views. In a society that claims to be liberal such a view should be ok to have. Homophobia is when someone hates someone else due to their sexual identification; having a traditional view of marriage does not mean you hate anyone.
Terms such as fascist are so often misused that I do, unfortunately, think that when a real fascist turns up many wouldn’t even blink an eye. The central doctrine and aim of fascism is to subsume all things under the state or as Gentile defined it as ‘for the state by the state and to the state’. Mussolini and Hitler both hated what they referred to as liberals, which in the classical sense means free markets, individualism and limited government. Trump can be accused of many things but to accuse him of fascism is an ahistorical abuse of the word.
Sadly, a small but vocal portion of the left seems to have abandoned the believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought. They have begun to push a puritanical approach in that if you don’t agree they will come after your business and family, they’ll have you attacked in the media and try to make you lose your job for a tweet (Maya Forstater). Orwell was a man on the left who I deeply respect, and he was troubled by the way England was going in the 50s and 60s, I do sometimes wonder what he would make of the country today.
Let me make it clear, the accusation of communism is also thrown around too much (and I have been guilty of that) It was actually an issue that the right jumped on recently that brought this to mind. California has just passed a bill ending sexual discrimination in the way people are punished. Whilst there are troubling implications the bill does not decriminalise paedophilia as many are claiming.
This is a perfect example of where the right can catastrophise and whilst I see some troubling implications, we should never jump to such an extreme conclusion.
I was fascinated this week to see how so many people I respect turn against Fox News and say it is fake news. Do you know why? It projected that Biden had won the presidency. You shouldn’t dismiss something if it doesn’t conform to your view. It looks like, according to votes counted, Biden has a sizeable enough lead for them to have proclaimed Biden and Harris President and Vice President elect. As a conservative, I may not have liked the result yet I believe in democracy and democracy has spoken. My advice to those who wanted the Trump/Pence ticket to win is to watch Biden and see what he does. Criticise when they do something wrong and praise them when they do something right.
The main question is can we solve the tribalism that has developed in political thought? I truly believe we can and need to. The way we do this is, first of all, listen to what the side you disagree with says. Read your opponents and people who don’t just conform to your ideological lens. I would encourage you to assume the person you are disagreeing with has thought through their position and don’t leap to the conclusion that you already know what they’re saying.
The Californian bill: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB145
Bradley is a Burkean Conservative and Associate Editor at Liberal Base. His interest are in tribalism, relationship of liberty and order, western political parties and the rise of China.You can follow him on twitter @burkeansmithite