The Threat of Tribalism by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

One of my favorite magazines is The Atlantic.  Their 2018 issue, Is Democracy Dying is an amazing study of America today.  I intend to comment on other articles, but I want to start with “The Threat of Tribalism.”

“The Constitution once United a diverse country under a banner of ideas.  But partisanship has turned Americans against one another – and against the principles in our founding government.”  This statement reflects what is going on in our country today.  Which is why, “Americans have come to view the Constitution not as a statement of shared principles but as a cudgel with which to attack our enemies.”

Although we hear about how immigrants should not be allowed into the country, some of us realize that “Even at the country’s founding, Americans were a multi ethnic, polyglot mix of English, Dutch, Scots, Irish, French, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Greeks, and others.”  It was the Constitution that held these diverse cultures and populations together.  The article explains how framework is slowly (or not so slowly) deteriorating.

The section that scares me most is “In a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, less than half of Republicans said that freedom of the press ‘to criticize politicians’ was ‘very important’ to maintaining a strong democracy in the United States.  In other 2017 surveys, more than half of Trump supporters said the president ‘ should be able to overturn decisions by judges that he disagrees with,’ and more than half of Republicans said they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if ‘Trump proposed delaying it until the country can make sure that only eligible Americans can vote.’  If these views became reality, that would be the end of constitutional democracy as we know it.”  We have already seen the Republican attempt to use this process by denying the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland during the Obama administration.

“The problem runs deeper still.  Since the 2001 publication of Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We? – which argued that America’s ‘Anglo-Protestant’ identity and culture are threatened by large-scale Hispanic immigration – there have been calls on the mainstream right to define America’s national identity in racial, ethnic, or religious terms, whether as white, European, or Judeo-Christian.  According to a 2016 survey commissioned by bipartisan Democracy Fund, 30 percent of Trump voters think European ancestry is ‘important’ to ‘being American’; 56 percent of Republicans and a full 63% of Trump supporters said the same of being Christian.  This runs counter to the Constitution’s foundational ideal: an America where citizens are citizens, regardless or race or religion; an America whose national identity belongs to no one tribe.”

There is more here and it is very important.


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