Policy vs. Tribalization

The past week has brought out a language of real alarm from a variety of elite voices, on the subject of Republicans’ rejection of democracy. Yesterday, retired general McCaffrey wrote this, which might have been cribbed from any number of my own posts:

Wild as this is to witness, a few things make me skeptical about its possible import. First, I cannot assume that this alarm will have any impact at all on either the larger population or the people with power to choose national policy. Second, perhaps a minor point, but it is such a demonstration of elite decadence that the demotion of far-right Republican Liz Cheney seems to be the main prompt for this alarm. Good grief.

Third, I’m forced to question the potential at this point for any policies or rules to contain what is a kind of cultural folk migration.

I think people observing that Republicans are directly rejecting democracy certainly aren’t wrong, but it’s also important to recognize that they are rejecting the exercise of power by non-Republicans, and convinced to an exaggerated degree that they have to choose either a Real-Americans autocracy or subjugation to The Other.

I don’t think all that many Republicans are fundamentally opposed to democracy as a process. I imagine that the majority want democracy, for themselves. They are simply grown so intolerant of governance by anyone outside their party that any system which permits this is unacceptable, including free and fair elections for all.

Obviously, the machinery of all this is lubricated by endless lies. Republicans claim, mostly, that they are trying to save fair elections, that they accept the peaceful transfer of power, that they deplore divisiveness, that they love America, that they aren’t bigoted, etc., etc. That’s all just gaslighting, and more and more Republicans are losing patience with even that empty rhetorical commitment to cooperation, talking openly about nullification, secession, fascism

What are we supposed to do about this?

I believe that there are all kind of things which the rest of America—which outnumbers Republicans substantially—ought to try. But short of a radical cultural revolution, is it actually possible to contain an insurgency supported by say one-third of the population?

What authority will Republicans actually respect and concede? Say that Democrats somehow find the votes to enact their national democracy reform legislation. I doubt this is in the cards, but say that it happens. Republicans will never accept it as legitimate, and will work nonstop to impede, evade and reverse it. Nor can we assume that they will restrict their opposition to “proper channels,” given that they have already been dipping toes and then some into the waters of kidnapping and violent insurrection. Even Republicans who offer bare minimum challenge to the demand for one-party rule get pounced on as apostates.

This does not resemble a problem which policy can resolve peacefully, even in theory.

It was not always this way, I think, but too many opportunities have gone by and the transformation of Republicans from democratic political participant to intolerant tribal enclave has gone too far. I was warning about this at least eight years ago and it was probably too late, then.

It’s difficult not to draw, once again, a parallel with Palestine, where similar forces are erupting in greater violence right now. Most Israeli citizens believe in democracy, from what I can tell, but they don’t believe in extending it to most of the non-Jews who would govern over them if they got to vote. As I have written before, “the two-state solution” is not only an excuse to perpetuate apartheid, in practice, it’s also even in theory a concession by liberal opinion that multiethnic democracy can’t be made to work.

Sadly, I have difficulty proving otherwise. Maybe multiethnic democracy can work, but it is unclear that policy can make it work when culture rejects it.

If multiethnic democracy is completely out of the question in Palestine, and the UK is drifting toward breakup along lines which are as much about modern political identity as they are about other aspects of culture, or race, it does not seem realistic to bet that the 150-year-old map of America’s union is sustainable with such a powerful tribal faction which rejects governance by anyone else but is not large enough to win every election under remotely fair systems.


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