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Forgotten Citizens Weigh in, This Election

Forgotten Citizens Weigh in, This Election

(Matt Dunham/AP)

By Wednesday, 02 November 2016 10:14 AM Current | Bio | Archive

For those who believe in a one world thesis — the union of people in a harmonized legal system — these are unsettling days. Rather than singing "Kumbaya" each morning, tribes are displaying a form of loyalty bred in the bone.

In fact, tribalism is alive and well and driving political judgments across the globe.

Whether it is Brexit or the manifestation of the post Sykes-Picot Middle East geography, tribalism reigns. If tribalism is defined as variable combinations of kinship, reciprocal exchange, economic circumstances, then the desire to impose an overlay of internationalism or globalization is bound to face formidable opposition.

Intense feelings of common identity promote tribal connections.

While a full-scale analysis of the Brexit vote has not yet occurred, my suspicion is that tribal factors, namely class and station, had a profound effect on the vote.

There was a union of culture in Britain, a subterranean belief that the elitists working in financial emporiums in London didn’t have the foggiest idea of how ordinary people are obliged to deal with the migration issue or even the pettifogging matter of requirements for electric product use.

Globalization has hastened the reemergence of tribalism, in large part, because of a public refusal to accept homogenization. The obvious point that people aren’t all the same is lost on supra-Democrats who believe they can and should impose their will on an uninterested and ignorant populace.

Although the setting is different from the U.K., tribalism was and remains the definitive character of the Middle East. Attempts to impose national structure on tribes only works to the extent each of the tribes believes it is being treated fairly.

It turns out that appeals to nationalism rest on this thin reed.

When consensus breaks down, as it did in Iraq and Syria, tribal warfare ensues.

The notion of Utopians, who embrace the idea of one-world government, is that human nature is so malleable the historical roots of tribalism can be conditioned away with international laws and a political tabula rasa. The presumption behind this theory is that experts can shape a new identity.

European Union officials contend national identities will fade as a European identity emerges. But Brexit presents a different hypothesis.

At the risk of analogizing beyond a reasonable point, the Trump phenomenon in the U.S. is an assertion of tribalism. Those ordinary Americans who sacrifice for the national welfare and are often ignored in the political equation, are asserting themselves. They are the tribe of “forgotten Americans.” Their adversary is a faceless group of Washington politicians, K Street lobbyists and self-described experts, who generally never consider this ordinary American in their thinking.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

There is power in these words, for the basis of tribalism is ancestry.

The past doesn’t die, it reemerges as tribal loyalty — for better or worse. And yes, there is an arrogant oligarchy believing it is endowed with the right to influence the behavior of others. These are the contemporary philosopher kings, whose only philosophy is power and whose stature is rarely regal.

But they stand on the pedestals of privilege to tell the world “we know best.”

Mr. and Mrs. forgotten American disagree. This tribe is ready to assert itself on the political stage in a manner that is disruptive and romantic. Mr. Smith does go to Washington and what happens when he arrives nobody knows.

Herbert London is the president of the London Center for Policy Research and author of the books "America's Secular Challenge" (Encounter Books) and "The Transformational Decade" (University Press of America). Read more reports from Herbert London — Click Here Now.


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Forgotten Americans ready to assert themselves on the political stage in a manner that is disruptive and romantic. Mr. Smith does go to Washington and what happens when he arrives nobody knows.
Wednesday, 02 November 2016 10:14 AM
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