Our self-identity forms our core.
For example, you might consider yourself to be a radical vegan who aligns herself with the needy.
Perhaps you’re a high-powered corporate exec whose net worth and golf handicap are the measure of your very existence.
Or you could be a Gen X Latino progressive who loves Korean horror movies and has a thing for Kate Winslet.
But one thing is highly likely: You see your “political affiliation not as a choice but as an identity; that is, something not subject to change with time.”
Yes, over the course of our lives, we will go through multiple circles of friends, change occupations, move to new cities, and adopt or discard habits, hobbies, and routines so often that we lose track of them.
But a leftist will nearly always remain liberal. A centrist will perpetually take pride in avoiding “extremism” and being the supposed voice of reason.
And a Republican? Well, if you sign on to the GOP at some point, you will probably never shake the party completely.
You see, “a growing body of work among political scientists studying polarization claims that nothing is as rigid as our political affiliations and that animus for those of the other party is higher and scarier than it’s ever been.”
This is further evidence that Democrats’ pathetic attempts to win back the white working class are doomed. Rural Americans are overwhelmingly conservative, and asking them to vote for a Democrat is telling them to ditch a key component of their identities. You might as well ask them to drink kale smoothies while listening to NPR in their Prius. In both cases, it’s something that wimpy liberals do.
Now, some conservatives have indeed become Never Trumpers or aligned themselves with the Lincoln Project. But they likely still consider themselves to be Republicans. Those few conservatives repulsed by the GOP’s embrace of authoritarianism have found it easier to hope that the GOP “comes to its senses“ than to ditch the party once and for all.
This is why you have Republicans who insist that the party should be more tolerant of gay marriage and adopt ideas like paid parental leave. Of course, there is already a party that does that—i.e., the Democrats—but a disillusioned Republican will reject the idea of joining those weirdoes. Instead, she will insist—despite mountains of statistical evidence and anecdotal proof—that the GOP will abruptly abandon its focus on white grievance and its base of right-wing voters, just to make herself feel a little better about getting a tax cut.
Most conservatives, however, do not even get that far. They are all in on the modern GOP. They have eliminated the principles that supposedly guided them for decades, and are not even trying to hide the xenophobia and rage that make the Republican Party function.
In fact, Americans who “sense that their identities regarding religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class conflict somehow with their political affiliations bring their identities into alignment with their politics.”
This means that it is easier for a white evangelical to twist his religious ideals to fit a grotesque version of American Christianity than it is for him to say, “Hey, maybe we should help the poor, like Jesus said.” No, he will justify ethical and moral abominations that contradict his religious beliefs, because “to walk away from one’s political party in today’s America means disrupting, and potentially destroying, every other aspect of one’s life,” and “few are willing to do that.”
To be clear, there are hardcore Democrats out there, but the fact is that “Republicans are more attached to their partisan identity and associate it more with a worldview and ideology than Democrats.” This means that conservatives will “vote for Republicans no matter what,” which is one reason that “the intense political polarization in American society … is largely asymmetrical.” So once again, anyone who peddles a “both sides“ narrative is spewing nonsense. The truth is that “Republican voters are not just more extreme than their Democratic counterparts; they are more loyal.”
Hypothetically speaking, of course.
Featured photo by Torjussen/CC BY 2.0