Modern elections—despite their social and political importance—have become more like sporting events than referendums around ideas. We so intensely identify with our partisan tribe, that we focus on the slogans, the rooting against the ‘other guy’ and other us-vs-them dynamics, and often lose sight of the issues, the context, and how ‘winning’ for our country (and world) might actually be influenced by our choices.
We are inherently tribal, after all. Of all of our inherited ancestral heuristics, defending our (historically small) tribe and ostracizing/rooting against the other tribe is one of the strongest human universals. In fact, perhaps humans’ best quality – cooperation and collaboration – was a byproduct of the strong unity born out of common threats, accessing surplus, and tribal warfare. We cooperate – for the good of our group – and for tens/hundreds of thousands of years, this meant survival.
Fast forward to November 2020, USA and the four year inflection point where half the country is rooting for Joe Biden and the other half (roughly) for Donald Trump – in our minds we know this is an important guidepost for our collective future, but we approach this week with similar temperament and behavior as a Packer/Viking pre-game tailgate.
We are now in the liminal space between our nation’s long history and future. Facts and expertise matter less by the day. Emotions and tribal affiliations focus our attention on the ‘cars’ instead of looking at the road ahead of us. Later this week 50% of our population will be elated and the other 50% will be angry. And most of both camps will be variously: righteous, anxious and uncertain, and perhaps violent.
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