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Politics and Tribes

I just took down the tagline from the blog. It used to read ‘trying to avoid labels’, which I thought was pretty clever, until David Frum and friends adopted the name ‘no labels’ for a centrist-conservative position.

But it turns out that I don’t have the moral profile of either a traditional liberal/Democrat or conservative/Republican. I was raised more-or-less as a liberal, which I gave up at some point in my teens, and drifted in a conservative direction until I realized I didn’t fit in with them either.

Realizing that my politics were truly independent, I felt briefly proud of myself until I discovered that what it actually means to be independent is to have no political friends. Democrats view me as a not-Democrat and therefore Republican, and Republicans view me as a squish — that is — as a liberal who doesn’t really want to admit he’s a liberal and therefore pretends to be a moderate or a Republican.

Later I discovered that apparently I had succeeded it making it to the advanced age of 36 without realizing that politics is essentially a tribal exercise — kind of like war. And by not belonging to either major tribe I don’t get the status of noncombatant. Rather, I am treated as a Quisling, fifth columnist, or, at best, as an enemy civilian whose death or injury is regarded as collateral damage — regrettable, but unimportant as long as the greater goal of defeating the main enemy is achieved.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but up until this year I genuinely believed that the purpose of politics was to choose the best course of action for government. I also have a very weird view, specifically, that governments in general should not spend more than they take in in taxes.