During the 2016 presidential campaign at a rally in Iowa, Donald Trump boasted that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not lose voters. With the revelations of his behavior toward women and other actions since being elected, I don’t doubt that President Trump’s boast may not well be true.
Now a Republican Senate candidate from Alabama has been accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl and multiple other women have come forward to tell their stories of how Roy Moore behaved toward them while they were teenagers and he was a 30-year-old assistant district attorney. Apparently, even if true, this is not a disqualifier for being elected in some Republicans’ minds.
Republican leaders in Alabama mostly supported Moore with one Alabama Republican comparing the relationship between Moore and his accuser to the age difference between the biblical couple, Mary and Joseph.
One Alabama county G.O.P. chairman went so far as to basically say that even if the accusations are true, people must still vote for Moore or they would be handing a victory to the Democratic party.
Sadly, this sort of thinking is apparent across the political spectrum and in many parts of society. It is part of a trend over the last decade which has led people to attach their social identity to a political party in a way that is akin to tribalism. It is no longer even about ideology or the political differences between the parties. Instead it is about supporting those who identify as belonging to the same groups you belong to, even to the point of ignoring abhorrent behavior in your fellows.
This is a scary proposition. When you come to identify so closely with a group to which you belong that anything that group does is seen through the prism of partisanship as an attack by the other side, you have lost the internal dissent that is key to curtailing extremism and corruption.
No member of any party or organization should feel that dissent is the equivalent of treason, and no leader of men and women should ever treat dissent as treason. But as the rank partisanship of our political system continues to grow, this becomes more common.
The sentiment behind this way of thinking is sold to people every day; it is the “be true to your school,” “my country right or wrong,” ideal. But that road leads in the end to jingoism and to despotism.
We in the Labor movement need to be vigilant in seeing the signs of gang mentality in ourselves and our organizations. I like to think that the Civil War Union General and Senator Carl Schurz had it right when he proclaimed on the floor of the Senate, “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” This sentiment, if applied to our country, our political parties, and our Union, will point the path to right thinking and right action.