Monday, January 18, 2021

The Five Tribes of Politics

Inspired by what Arnold Kling has taught me with his Three-Axes Model as formalized in The Three Languages of Politics, I would like to attempt to explain the actual factions in today’s political arena as defined by their constituents. The factions are:
  1. Crony Capitalists (CC)
  2. Labor (L)
  3. Patriots (P)
  4. Evangelicals (E)
  5. Woke Champions (WC)
Note that to some people at least all five are boo words. I don't mean the labels to necessarily be pejoratives, but I do think it is helpful and instructive that they cut to the core of what motivates these groups. One could easily classify each as a religious movement and analyze within that framework--take that to be as innocuous or incendiary as you like.

I propose that political success (winning elections and maintaining power) largely can be explained by how well parties and candidates gain and retain the support of these constituencies. Getting the support of enough of them allows for electoral success. A key component of that is to figure out which fit together when. 

Notice that the alignments change over time as do the salient forces within each. In the time of George W. Bush the alignment was CC-P-E. During Obama’s time the Woke Champions were tame and not toxic. He enjoyed a successful alignment of CC-L-WC with meaningful support of E. I believe the Great Recession and GFC was a turning point for the CC coalition as Obama's rhetoric was reassuring and McCain seemed rudderless. This left McCain only claiming P as a solid supporting group. 

Trump shifted or enjoyed the shift to where CC-L-P-E was dominant. To the degree he lost favor with CC, perhaps a stronger group for Clinton, he gained L. Before you dismiss this, consider that it is not the CC or L leadership we are concerned with. Those overwhelmingly went to Clinton in the case of L and solidly in the case of CC. Think rather of the membership. Both CC and L share a very common motivation: protection from competition at home and abroad. One big subgroup within CC are all those whose primary political motivation is preservation if not extension of the entitlement-industrial complex (Social Security, Medicare, et al.).

Biden is the leader of CC-L with enough support from P and WC to edge out Trump. There are two ways WC should not be considered a strong faction for Biden: one, there are quite a few WC on the far right; two, he is not the ideal candidate for leftist-WC (the much bigger part of WC). If WC realizes they are on the outside looking in during the next four years, they will turn on him where currying favor with E might be his only refuge (albeit an odd and unlikely one). Notice how this largely but incompletely maps to highly-educated elites (HEEs). 

If you don't find yourself on this grid (I certainly do not), realize that it is not an exhaustive list of political alignment. You are either ignoring your true, primarily political motivations or you are not a member of the significant political class. As a live-and-let-live, small government libertarian I indeed do not have a ideological home within any of these five tribes. Hence, no politician need care about my vote. 

P.S. Yes, I have read Hidden Tribes--I do not find it compelling or complete. Among other flaws, it is two wedded to the left-right duopoly model of politics. 

No comments:

Post a Comment