You remember the photo, taken in early August, of two men at an Ohio Trump rally whose matching T-shirts read, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” (Now you can buy them online for $14.) It was a gibe that spoke to our moment. The Republican brand — as with presidential nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney — used to be pointedly anti-Russian; Romney called Moscow our chief global enemy. In the Trump era, though, you can be a Republican Russophile for whom Vladimir Putin is a defender of conservative values. American politics, it has become plain, is driven less by ideological commitments than by partisan identities — less by what we think than by what we are. Identity precedes ideology.
“The Democratic Party today is divided over whether it wants to focus on the economy or identity,”
.. So does the assumption that the great majority of Republicans who support Trump are drawn to his noxious views. (That’s the good news in the bad news.) Among candidates who led in the Republican primaries, after all, his percentage of the vote was the lowest in nearly half a century.
.. Identity groups come to rally behind their leaders, and partisan identification wouldn’t be so stable if it didn’t allow for a great deal of ideological flexibility. That’s why rank-and-file Republicans could go from “We need to stand up to Putin!” to “Why wouldn’t we want to get along with Putin?” in the time it takes to say: Rubio’s out, Trump’s in.
.. The best predictor of ideological animus, the study found, wasn’t a respondent’s opinions or even how strongly she held them, but what label she embraced, conservative or liberal.
.. Mason calls this “identity-based ideology,” as opposed to “issue-based ideology.”
.. Either formulation is a polite way of saying that political cleavages are not so much “I disagree with your views” as “I hate your stupid face.” You can be an ideologue without ideology.
.. “Implicit bias,” and the special tests designed to measure it, come up often in the wake of police shootings and #BlackLivesMatter. They show in-group preferences among whites and among blacks. But experiments suggest that partisan in-group preferences are far more powerful.
.. between 30 and 60 percent of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans want their kids to marry in the party.
.. Long before anyone instructs children to group people into categories, research tells us, they’re programmed to do it anyway, and one of our basic ways of making sense of the world is to form generalizations of the sort linguists call “generics” — such as “bears eat people” or “tick bites give you Lyme disease.” Those generalizations count as true, but it’s not easy to say why. Hardly any bears have eaten people , and less than 2 percent of tick bites transmit the Lyme spirochete. But, as the philosopher Sarah-Jane Leslie has argued, we’re more likely to accept a generic if it involves a reason for concern, such as getting eaten or getting sick.
.. generics encourage us to think of the class in question as a kind, a group with a shared essence. To show how this works, Leslie joined with psychologists Marjorie Rhodes and Christina Tworek to design an experiment in which 4-year-olds were shown pictures of a fictional kind of person they called a Zarpie. The people in the pictures were male and female, black, white, Latino, Asian, young and old. With one group of 4-year-olds, the experimenters made lots of generic remarks. (“Zarpies are scared of ladybugs” and the like.) With another group, they made specific statements, not generic ones. (“Look at this Zarpie! He’s afraid of ladybugs!”) A couple of days later, they showed the kids a Zarpie and said he made a buzzing sound. It turned out that the children who’d heard a lot of generics about Zarpies were much more likely to believe that all Zarpies made buzzing sounds. Generic talk encouraged them to think of Zarpies as a category of person.
.. Generic remarks about people, in short, encourage you to think of them as a kind, and you’re more likely to accept a generic claim about a group if it’s negative or worrying. (Liberals hate America; conservatives are bigots.)
.. As everyone knows on some level, we’re tribal creatures. We not only belong to groups but are easily triggered to take arms against other groups. Evolutionary psychologists think these dispositions helped our ancestors survive by creating groups they could rely on to deal with the perils of prehistoric life ..
.. True, that was before cable news and social media. But those us-and-them instincts remain an indelible part of human nature.
.. if tribalism is responsible for some of the worst aspects of our politics, it’s also responsible for some of the best. According to the historian David Herbert Donald, the 19th-century abolitionists belonged to a tribe — essentially, an old-line Northern elite displaced by a new commercial and manufacturing class — that sought to regain its position through ethical crusades. The moral math was correct, but social identity was what helped it spread.
.. Almost the entire South went in 1976 for Jimmy Carter, who won by wide margins in notably white stateslike Arkansas and Tennessee. Voters who had supported states-rights candidates got behind the progressive from Plains, Ga., because — well, they were Southern Democrats, and so was Carter
.. the region didn’t become reliably Republican until the late 1990s. A generation of Southern Democrats had to die first.
.. To wish away identity politics is to wish away gravity. It burdens us, but it also grounds us. A workable politics enlists its force — and broadens its scope
President Trump stopped his motorcade in Manhattan today, jumped out of his limousine and shot a man on Fifth Avenue who was shouting anti-Trump epithets. The shooting was recorded by the White House press pool as well as by dozens of bystanders with cellphones and by security cameras in the area. When asked for his reaction, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We will need more information than is available at this point.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said through pursed lips that he “was not going to comment on every up and down with this president.”House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he already had information indicating that the man whom Trump shot “worked for the Clinton Foundation and may have been a relative of former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.”
Fox News did not cover Trump’s shooting at the top of its broadcast, which focused instead on the killing of an Iowa woman by an undocumented immigrant. Fox’s only reference to the fact that the president shot a man on Fifth Avenue was that “a New York City man died today when he ran right into a bullet fired by the president.”
Senator Lindsey Graham quipped that “Trump shoots as well as he putts”and that this incident would not cause the South Carolina senator to cancel his coming golf round with the president at his Bedminster, N.J., course.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that she was looking the other way when the shooting happened so she had no comment, adding: “I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with the president. I’ll get back to you if I have something. But the president has stated many times that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. So he’s just keeping a campaign promise. He did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. And even though I have no comment, and he has no comment, we’ve commented on this extensively.”
Hours later, though, the president tweeted: “Actually, some people are saying that a man who looked a lot like Barack Obama did the shooting. I’m not saying that — but some people are. It also could have been somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds who fired that shot. Like Rudy said: Truth is not truth — unless I say so.”
Jerry Falwell Jr., a top evangelical leader, announced that his movement would be holding a vigil this evening, praying that the president had not stressed himself too much by having to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue. Falwell added, “This would never have happened if Jeff Sessions were doing his job.”
The day ended with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declaring that the fact that the president could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight “only proves again why we need to arm all our schoolteachers.”
My biggest challenge in writing all of the above? Worrying that readers wouldn’t realize it was made up.
.. America, we all know, won the Cold War. Our values and economic system proved superior to Russia’s. But what is at stake in the 2018 midterms is who is going to win the post-Cold War.
.. what we are seeing in the behavior of Trump and his toadies in the G.O.P. is the beginnings of the Russification of American politics. Vladimir Putin could still win the post-Cold War.
.. Because the Soviets claimed to have built a worker’s paradise, it was important that we had strong unions, a strong middle class, less inequality and an adequate social safety net. The Soviets did not have the rule of law. So we had to have it more than ever.
“I came here from Russia in ’75,” Gorbis added, “and it was remarkable to me that in this society there were laws and norms and principles, and people abided by them. The idea that people actually paid their taxes was kind of remarkable to me.” In the Russia she grew up in, said Gorbis, “we did not have that; if there was a law, there was always a way to bribe and get around it.”
.. But with the Cold War now far back in our rearview mirror, Trump has not only insisted on bringing America closer to Putin’s Russia geopolitically, but also politically.
.. Trump still refuses to show us his tax returns long after his “audit,” which can only mean he is hiding something. His campaign chairman Paul Manafort is a convicted tax cheat who was trying to keep Putin’s stooge in power in Ukraine. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is another confessed tax cheat.
.. And the first two House Republicans to endorse Trump in 2016 — Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins — were both just indicted on corruption charges.
.. one has a stronger feeling than ever that with a moral vacuum at the heart of the Trump White House — and with the president assaulting the media and the judiciary on a regular basis, not unlike Putin — everything goes, so grab what you can, because no one’s looking.
.. “The Russification of America under Trump, it’s not just about collusion, corruption and money laundering,” said Gorbis. “It is about his behavior” — crass language, simplistic slogans reminiscent of the Soviet rhetoric, use of terms such as “enemy of the people,” and his insistence on personal loyalty over loyalty to the Constitution or institutions.
.. There are other parallels between Trumpism and Putinism: the glorification of oil, gas and mining over science and technology; the elevation of white, Christian, nationalist values; and the neutering of the legislative branch — today’s G.O.P.-dominated Congress behaves just like the rubber-stamp Russian Duma. Worse, this Russification of politics is also spreading — to the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and maybe soon to Brazil.
.. A few more years of this Russification of America and the rot will be everywhere. Russia will have won the post-Cold War