The Tribal States of AmericaMarch 2, 2020
As America emerged victorious after World War II, an era of unity swept the country. Then television arrived, causing a cultural unification of the American people. Everybody knew who Ed Sullivan was. The Bonanza boys, Mary Tyler Moore, the Fonz, all had national recognition beyond anything ever seen.
On the radio, the same pop music was played on AM stations all across the land and with the arrival of Motown, African-American entertainment finally went mainstream. In addition, black sports figures like Willie Mays and Bill Russell were admired from coast to coast. The word “united” really was appropriate in the culture and, to a lesser extent, in the accepted view of how the country should be run.
Now that is gone.
America is no longer a united assortment of states. We have devolved into tribalism because of technology. Our devices allow us to think small, to pursue our self-interest constantly with others who like what we like.
Stamp collecting, hunting, fitness, finance, sports, religion, if you want to lose yourself in a specific world, you can easily do it. And you don’t even have to leave the house.
Thus, our common culture is vanishing, no longer does entertainment or education or even faith bind us together. Today, it is every person for him, her or, insert your own pronoun, self.
So the question becomes how can a nation made up of millions of self-absorbed tribes govern itself? There is little prevailing national interest anymore. “We’re all in this together” has vanished.
It has been replaced by “where’s what I want?”
Tribalism extends to politics, of course, and we are vividly seeing that in the struggles of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders could not have happened ten years ago. Democrats were very happy with their liberal but conventional leader Barack Obama, a man who won the presidency while opposing gay marriage and espousing other traditional beliefs. Today, you cannot even run as a democrat if you don’t embrace gay nuptials or support late-term abortion.
But some “moderate” democrats do remain. However, they are being eclipsed by traditional liberals, far-left progressives, and the socialist/communist element. The democrats are now divided into tribes. Some love Bernie, others support Bloomberg, South Carolina dems rallied for Biden. But these men share little common ground and are propelled by the tribes that support them, not a central party.
The result, as we are seeing, is chaos. Senator Sanders leads the primary pack, but the democrat establishment does not want him to run against President Trump because the poobahs think he’ll lose. It is a becoming bitter situation.
In the past, political winds have shifted every few years in America and that might happen again if the Democratic Party gets destroyed in November.
But what will never happen again is a spirit of “E Pluribus Unum.” Out of many, one.
High technology has rendered that motto obsolete so we need a new slogan. Perhaps something like: “In tribes we trust.”