How Tribalism And Identity Politics Are Shredding The Constitution

By Neal Silvester

There’s a famous prophecy in the Mormon tradition that says that the U.S. Constitution (which Mormons believe was a divinely inspired document) will one day “hang by a thread.” While the exact words are unsubstantiated and are likely mere Mormon folktale, they indeed seem to be coming to pass.

And while Donald Trump seems like the primary threat, it’s not his fault alone. In fact, Trump is a mere symptom of the true rot that threatens America’s core ideals. That true illness is the rise of identity politics, which has driven leftist politicking for decades now. In a word, tribalism.

There comes a point in the Book of Mormon where the two warring tribes, the Nephites, and the Lamanites, are able to form a utopian society. The key attribute of this utopia is a lack of division.

“And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And….there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. … There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Nephi 2-3, 15-17)

A society free from prejudice, unified in belief, and driven by concern for one another. Not because the government compels them—but because they as individuals choose it. 

However, it does not last forever. Over the course of several generations, divisions arise, and the unity falls apart as people split into classes and ranks and all sorts of -ites: “Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, Ishmaelites.” All different tribes with different leaders and different values and different ideals. Though some of these tribes were still righteous, ultimately they all become “exceedingly wicked one like unto another” because of the burden of constant conflict. This leads to the collapse of their thousand-year civilization.

This same tribalism is the greatest threat to the Constitution in our day. We are all rapidly dividing into our various tribes, our cliques, and communities. Race, religion, gender (the 43 kinds or whatever), the various letters of LGBTQ, the various brands of feminism, the alt-right, socialist, conservative, libertarian, progressive, white nationalist, and on and on. At first, it is liberating to find those like us in this fractured world. But the more we divide into these tribes, the more loyalty is demanded, and the blinder that loyalty gets—and the less human other tribes become.

And once the other tribe is dehumanized, they no longer deserve our same rights. Rights for me but not for thee.

Take a look at how the first amendment is treated on university campuses, where divisions of ethnicity and sex and every other category are not only highlighted but inculcated, even preached with an almost religious fervor. And where ideologies of even slight variance from the accepted canon are shouted down, harassed, attacked without a single effort to think about them critically.

These kids were never taught why rights like free speech are so important. They don’t understand the genius and beauty of the Constitution, why all speech must be protected and that ideological pluralism is a good thing, for progress, like biological evolution, only occurs in pools of great, and true, diversity.

Instead, they are taught the shallowest form of diversity, that of skin color and sexual identity, rather than that of ideas and ways of thought. If you don’t share their values, heaven help you, for they will abuse, harass, and try to destroy you, all in an effort to extinguish hate. In this crusade, they believe that their enemies must be stopped at all costs, without understanding the threat of tyranny they themselves pose—or even why their brand of tyranny is a bad thing at all.

Alas, you see the same phenomenon on the right with the freedom of the press. The Trumpian right (curse the day when it is called “conservative”) hates the mainstream media, and not only refuses to listen to anything they say but often wants journalists punished for trying to say it. In other words, they ironically mirror the authoritarian behavior of campus progressives.

Now, the press isn’t innocent; for decades they treated the right with scorn, leveling public trust in their own institution in doing so. But now these so-called conservatives only accept news from their tribal scouts—Hannity, Rush, the like—and refuse to believe anything or anyone else. They banish unwanted information with the cliched incantation, “Fake news!” and only entrench themselves further in their own mess.

Then the vocal cultural left responds in kind, calling them all racists without even trying to understand why they live and vote the way they do. And ironically, the more the left throws the “racist” label around, the more the other side really becomes racist, if only out of spite.

Both sides could take a cue from Christianity: turning the other cheek, loving them that hate you, doing good to them that persecute you—all those things would solve so many problems. Instead, they just fight hate with hate, and the more they fight, the more enemies they make, and the more collective hatred they generate. Thus neither side seeks peace, and the echo chambers continue, and the war drums beat on.

When, as now, “the ability to fight” becomes the most important goal, even just verbally, it inevitably leads to physical violence. It’s already led to some of that, as we’ve seen. But it will get worse, and soon. Words have stopped being effective because no one is really listening to each other. Neither side tries to understand the values that inform the thought processes of their enemy, instead talking right past each other and only ever communicating a combative posture without regard for constitutional practices. The cultural left has been doing this for a while, but now that the right is in power, it wants to join the fray, because What About Obama? and other excuses.

We are willingly stricken blind and deaf for the sake of our hatred. Evil men and women like Trump will take advantage of this decay and whip up the frenzied crowd, seducing them until they own them. We’ve seen many genuinely good people on the right not only supporting Trump no matter what he does but defending him, too. Their souls are now effectively his. (Obama also gained blind loyalty among many, no matter what policies he really enacted.)

If the Constitution with its checks on power is caught underfoot in the pursuit of the enemy’s defeat, so be it, for it is done for the greater good—a.k.a. our side’s victory, even if it sacrifices the liberty of the whole land. Instead of condemning our leader’s abuses of power, “we the people” cheer them on, forgetting our founding principles, forgetting the reason America was great in the first place. That is how our national soul is being lost, and how the Constitution will be ripped and torn and, yes, hang by a thread. And with both sides focused on their street fight, who is left to guard it?

How long will this complete civilizational collapse take? Is it inevitable or can we change it? Impossible to say. But just two years ago no one could have possibly predicted where we are now—and that should say an awful lot.

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