Russel Jacoby wrote a thought provoking book titled Bloodlust tracing the biblical roots of our personal violence towards one another. He used the phrase, “narcissism of minor differences”, to describe the violence not between groups that are the most different, but between groups that display relatively minor differences. We can view the conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants, and the Sunnis and the Shiites and see stunning violence between groups with very similar core religious beliefs and cultural heritage.
I wonder if this is what we are seeing now in the conflicts within both parties.
It seems not to be a conflict of ideologies but conflicts hinging on the absence of ideologies allowing voters to focus more on mere emotional triggers. The willingness of intra party factions to bolt even if it means the opposition party wins displays a greater hostility to fellow allies with similar but different ideas than to the other party with fundamentally different ideas. They seem more inclined to lose than to compromise.
Retired Mercer University President Kirby Godsey once spoke of leaders who allow themselves to be “crucified on a six inch cross”. Sometimes an ineffective leader suffers from too many principles and expends far too much political capital fighting for an issue that should have been compromised. This powerful metaphor also seems at play.
In customer service, Dean Young , the sales manager at General Steel, astutely observed that a customer would forgive a single error if it was fixed quickly and cheerfully, but that after a couple of errors they would be looking for short comings and respond to transgressions that may have been previously too minor to notice.
I see this in the GOP circular firing squad posing as a primary. Many soft Republicans tolerated religious fundamentalists and other elements because we still thought the dominant ideologies were capitalism and constitutional conservatism. Trump has proposed policies that seem antithetical to both ideologies and gets substantial traction from his stance. The objectionable elements have retained or strengthened their hold and the positive elements seem to have greatly retreated. Republicans have never been as loyal to their party as the Democrats, and this current conflict makes it easier for conservative voters to reject the republicans as any coherent political philosophy. Even if Trump is not the nominee the damage to what weak sense of party loyalty the Republicans ever had will be severe.
This leaves a lot of very unenthusiastic voters. The Democrats offer no home. They remain addicted to the growth in government from a century of Progressive policies that have evolved to a point where their leaders and voters are unable to articulate any difference between the modern Democrat and a socialist. It is as stunning that an avowed socialist can do as well as Bernie Sanders as it is that a candidate as ethically flawed as Hillary can be the front runner.
The politically correct lunacy on the left has abandoned some of our most sacred intellectual principles and is at least as anti-intellectual as those that cling to their bibles and guns, and noticeably less tolerant.
Normally I fear that blind optimism obscures threats that seem obvious in hindsight. In this campaign it is hard to see any road that leads to an acceptable leader. The only surprise would be that everythings turns out reasonably well.
By far my favorite shareholder annual report I read is the Berkshire report written by Warren Buffet. It strikes me this year, considering the political background, that Buffet remains quite optimistic and focuses on the bright prospects of his many successful companies. Buffet’s attitude is not just to be above the fray, but to render it irrelevant.
That is not to suggest that we should drop out politically and not vote, but it does recommend that we spend more of our time focusing on the areas that we can influence and improve.