Creating the white tribe

A reader of Rod Dreher’s blog provides a glimpse into why some white people, even if they are neither Republicans nor Trump supporters, find themselves being pulled towards “the white tribe”:

I am very lower middle class. I’ve never owned a new car, and do my own home repairs as much as I can to save money. I cut my own grass, wash my own dishes, buy my clothes from Walmart. I have no clue how I will ever be able to retire. But oh, brother, to hear the media tell it, I am just drowning in unearned power and privilege, and America will be a much brighter, more loving, more peaceful nation when I finally just keel over and die.

Trust me: After all that, some of the alt-right stuff feels like a warm, soothing bath. A “safe space,” if you will. I recoil from the uglier stuff, but some of it — the “hey, white guys are actually okay, you know! Be proud of yourself, white man!” stuff is really VERY seductive, and it is only with some intellectual effort that I can resist the pull. And yet I still follow this stuff, not really accepting it, but following it just because it’s one of the only places I can go where people are not always telling me I’m the seed of all evil in the world. If it’s a struggle for someone like me to resist the pull, I imagine it’s probably impossible for someone with less education or cultural exposure.

The reader goes on to discuss how the cultural left created this dilemna:

It baffles me that more people on the left can’t understand this, can’t see how they’re just feeding, feeding, feeding the growth of this stuff. They have no problem understanding, and even making excuses for, say, the seductive pull of angry black radicalism for disaffected black men. They’re totally cool with straightforwardly racist stuff like La Raza. Why are they unable to put themselves into the shoes of disaffected white guys and see how something similar might appeal to them? Or if they can make this mental leap, why are they so caustically dismissive of it — an attitude they’d never do with, say, a black kid who has joined the Nation of Islam?

I’m sorry, but there are two alternatives here. You can push for some kind of universalist vision bringing everybody together, or you can have tribes. There’s not a third option. If you don’t want universalism, then you just have to accept that various forms of open white nationalism are eventually going to become a permanent feature of politics. You don’t have to LIKE it. But you have to accept it and learn to live with it — including the inevitable violence and strife that will flow from it.

If the Left can’t let go of identity politics, then let me be clear: What comes next is on THEM. A lot of us don’t want to live in a world of tribes, and we never asked for it. But people will like those young dudes attracted to white nationalism are going to play the game according to the rules as they find them, and they will play to win. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I read this in conjunction with Jeffrey Tucker’s important essay, “Must We Pick a Side?” Tucker’s essay is based on the premise that the most recent presidential election is yet another example of people voting based on the “team” they’re on, rather than on whether the policies a candidate proposes are appropriate:

The wildly contentious election of 2016 seems to have inculcated certain habits of mind. We are tempted to believe that our role as citizens is like that of a sports fan. We need to choose a team and stick with it, no matter what. Our team needs us.

If we lend our voices in support of the other guy, we are betraying our team. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. My friend is imperfect, but to admit this publicly is to weaken our side. It’s a test of loyalty. Therefore bring out the face paint, the jerseys, and the Vuvuzelas, and let’s fight, fight, fight!

Every day, the media exploits this model, giving us combat spectacles of left vs. right, party vs. party, this person vs. that person. This drives ratings, which is evidence that people find it intriguing. It allows spectators to participate by shouting at the TV, yelling at the radio, posting angrily on social media, having sub-tweet wars, and so on. We mimic what we see in these venues and even begin to talk like the vituperative and viral voices that fill up our feeds.

If the 2016 election were like any other election, I would agree completely with Tucker. However, I think Tucker is missing a key dynamic that arose during this election. That dynamic was the American public’s revolt against the left’s identity politics and stranglehold over American life. That revolt was expressed most specifically through the election of Trump.

Unfortunately, the left has yet to receive the message the public attempted to deliver. Rather than acknowledging that it may have treated some people, particularly white people, unfairly, it has doubled-down. Candidates for the DNC Chair are competing over who hates white people more. New York magazine is proclaiming that the future of left-wing politics is female. Meanwhile, many people on the left are celebrating the fact that a leader of the white nationalist movement got sucker-punched while talking. (Notice the “White Lives Matter Too Much” sign in the background.)

I completely agree with Tucker when he writes:

Stay independent, think clearly, watch carefully, adhere to principle, speak fearlessly, praise when good things happen and oppose when bad things happen, tell the truth as you see it, and otherwise be ever vigilant in defense of rights and liberties, yours and everyone’s. To be steadfast and honest in these times is the height of political virtue.

In this spirit, I write to say that the left is in the process of begetting its own demise. By categorizing everyone by certain identities, and either elevating or demonizing each identity accordingly, the response is a right-wing politics that are a negative reflection of its own. Rod Dreher’s reader, however educated and cultured he may be, can resist the temptation of the white tribe for only so long. However, does the left really want to rely on his having infinite patience with how it is treating white people?

And if he joins the tribe, how many more will be with him?

Saint Francis, pray for us!

Saint Anthony of Padua, pray for us!


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