Tribalism and the Two-Party System

I’ve spilled a lot of ink trying to figure out why people hold the political opinions they do–Genetics? Neurology? Game theory?–but maybe it’s just the fact that we’re tribal creatures stuck in a two-party system.

The US is legally set up as a two-party system. Doen’t matter how much you like a third party: our system of counting votes makes it nearly impossible for it to win.

A two-party system means that whatever one party supports, the other party–if it wants to win–opposes. It doesn’t matter what you support. You could be the Cute Puppies and Kittens Party, and your opponents would start writing diatribes about how “cute” puppies and kittens are a serious menace to society. “Millions of babies have been smothered by puppies and kittens!” the headlines would scream. “Why won’t the Cute Puppies and Kittens Party acknowledge the dangers of flea-borne BUBONIC PLAGUE?”

And we, being tribal creatures, believe that it is absolutely critical to support their own tribe against that other, awful evil tribe that is clearly evil because of its obviously EVIL stance on puppies and kittens.

If you don’t want to play this game, then guess what? You aren’t going to win votes.

The Democrats have increasingly focused on race and other identity-politics issues for the past 8 years or so, (culminating in the BLM protests.) The initial Republican strategy (embodied in Hispanic-friendly candidates like Jeb, Cruz, and Rubio) was to try to win by attracting Hispanic voters. But Cubans aside, being the “slightly welcoming to immigrants” party isn’t good enough to woo immigrants away from the “Open borders now” party, and it’s going to alienate all of the voters who are concerned that immigration is too high.

By not opposing the Democrats, Republicans left themselves open to internal sniping: hence Trump’s takeover.

A lot of people blame Trump for the Alt-Right, but the AR existed long before Trump. The AR emerged as a response to the left’s SJW-Identity politics, politics mainstream conservatism had no credible answers to. Trump is simply a product of the same forces.

It’s bad enough when tribal lines are being drawn over puppies and kittens. Throw in actual ethnic and group identities and you are asking for trouble.

Now add to this the fact that democracy is essentially how we are trying to run our country. “Want to get something done? Want to improve your pet issue? Vote!”

We are incentivising people to OPPOSE GOOD IDEAS because if they don’t, someone else who DOES will GET ELECTED INSTEAD.

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4 thoughts on “Tribalism and the Two-Party System

  1. I wonder how long the two party system will endure. It evolved in a country that was 85% or more White, and all politics was intrawhite politics; blacks and Indians were irrelevant. But once there is no longer an overwhelmingly dominant ethnic group, once we get actual multiethnic, multicultural politics, we should see the development of parties focused on specific ethnic groups and promoting their interests. We already have the situation that the Republican Party seems to be becoming the de facto White party, and if it doesn’t at least implicitly become that party it might be replaced. And the Democrat Party in California is a Hispanic party. How long progressive Whites and Jews can continue to dominate the Democrat Party is a good question. The future of the Democrat Party is Perez and Ellison, and that means a fragmented Democrat Party, at least at the state level.

    If we do get a multiparty system, we will likely get coalition politics. Of course, before the ideological realignment of the 70’s, both parties were wide spectrum, big tent parties that were coalitions of very different state parties. One need only remember the Northern socialists like Stevenson allying with the Southern segregationists like Fulbright to realize that.

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    • IIRC, Republicans have been defacto white since LBJ–I don’t think Dems have carried the white vote since the Civil Rights Act.

      So far, Hispanics have (mostly) kept quiet, but they’re our biggest minority, now. I wonder how things will play out between them and blacks.

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  2. “We are incentivising people to OPPOSE GOOD IDEAS because if they don’t, someone else who DOES will GET ELECTED INSTEAD.”

    To get here, you need to do a little more work.

    Stipulated: in order to get elected, you need to oppose an opponent.

    Stipulated: there are multiple, but limited, ways to oppose something. It’s not always binary, but (especially for mass democracy) communicable alternatives hardly reach above 3 total possibilities.

    Stipulated: in a vacuum, an intelligent person will try to come up with what he thinks is a good idea.

    Stipulated: coming up with ideas not in a vacuum has some anti-correlation with coming up with good ideas. (This is the very important step to reach your result.)

    Therefore, for some ‘first’ election, someone will come up with a good idea and run on that. Someone else – the other side – will oppose the good idea. Who wins? If truth value gives only epsilon winning correlation, pick at random.

    Either we have a good-ideas man in office or we don’t. If we don’t, continue to next election.

    If we do, good; but next election is another random choice. Eventually we end up with a not-good ideas man in office.

    Once we have a not-good ideas incumbent, his opponent, through the act of opposing him is unlikely to come up with a good idea. (See the last postulate, which is arguable.) Therefore, we get a run of bad ideas competing in elections before a good idea pops up again. If the anti-correlation is strong, this is a long run.

    In any case, if tribalism is correct, the decision process for who gets into office has very little to do with whether he has a good idea or not. In fact, you could model (with a capable-of-discernment populace, hah) tribalism as the probablistic disconnect between electing good ideas and electing bad ones.

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