Pandemic Tribalism

Jesus Trump mask

Thomas B. Edsall, When the Mask You’re Wearing ‘Tastes Like Socialism’: The partisan divide over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic has deepened over the past few weeks

Mr. Edsall’s piece of May 20 cites and summarizes a large number of social science studies on what I suppose we might call the social psychology of idiocy. I will not attempt to summarize his summary; please read it for yourself if you want to find your way deeper into the social science.

He ends by quoting a U.C. Irvine psychologist for the proposition, “In 21st century American politics, truth is tribal,” followed by these observations of his own:

In other words, the pandemic has become another example of Trump’s mastery over his most loyal subjects, his ability to manipulate them into violating their own instincts. It is this power over a substantial bloc of the electorate that has put him in the White House — and continues to make him so dangerous.

But, as many recent polls are teaching us, the my-mask-tastes-like socialism-crowd is only a part of the core Trump base—around 10 to 15 percent or so of the total population.

Georgia as a Petri Dish

The point is born out, for example, by Steve Rattner’s charts of this morning. With Georgia having officially shut down late and opened up early,

  • the good news is that so far covid-19 hasn’t sparked
  • but that’s mainly because behavior in Georgia has closely tracked behavior throughout the country—and Georgians by and large have stayed home, rather than obeying the governor’s ideologically driven commands, and, as you would expect
  • Georgians are not stimulating the economy with high levels of consumer spending, and business distress and unemployment remain high.

It’s the Delusion, Stupid

Trump is running around encouraging the nutjobs to take their AK-47s and storm the legislature. He is demanding that people fill church pews this coming Sunday. Many attribute this approach to desperation. But that, friends, is not the right term.

When you are losing money on every sale but think you can make it up on volume, that is not a strategy, that is a delusion.

Likewise, when you practice wedge politics by driving a deeper and deeper wedge between 15 percent of the country and everybody else, that is not a coherent strategy to win. That is delusion, rising to the level of psychosis.