Tribalism, Family and Trump

noun: tribalism
  1. the state or fact of being organized in a tribe or tribes.
    • derogatory
      the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group.
      “a society motivated by cultural tribalism”
      synonyms: sectarianism, chauvinism;

      “the latest waves of violence were blamed on tribalism”

I’ve included the definition of tribalism and a few links and references above.  I loved sociology in college and still love looking at societies over individuals (which is why psychology wasn’t as interesting to me).  But two things got me back on this topic:  family and Trump’s campaign and election despite the popular vote.

I’ll start with family.  In modern society where individuals are so physically mobile, many people are developing “families of choice.”  This can be inclusive or exclusive and, by that, I mean positive or negative.  When we speak of blended families we usually mean couples who each bring children from other relationships into their “family” and may go on to add “joint” children to that blended family.  This is an inclusive and positive version of a family of choice.  Groups and individuals who support one another beyond the bonds of shared experience, interests or activities are also positive.

The negative version of this is the family where the core members view anyone beyond that as an outsider and distrust and limit their access.  For example, a mother who remarries and has two daughters.  One adult daughter accepts her stepdad, looks for the positive, accepts his faults (but still confronts them when necessary) and routinely includes and considers his viewpoint as a full family member.  The other adult daughter is civil (usually) and remains either emotionally distant or confrontational.  Anyone not born into the family, especially the core family, is an outsider not to be fully trusted.

The dynamic between these two siblings becomes strained whenever the accepting daughter pushes the boundaries of the distant daughter.  For example, by revealing issues between other family members, either to him or too widely.  Blogging would qualify, but I think good blogging discovers common ground and to do that you must personalize the blogs to connect to the readers.  If your blog is also a journal, you must monitor your inclination to reveal more and more.  I sometimes rethink a post, turn it private, and then rewrite it for a second posting.

The urge to tribalism is instinctive. It’s protective when it encourages reasonable and cautious behavior.  It’s threatening when it readily overrides reason and ethical behavior and creates a backlash where it encourages us to act against our own best interests.  Trump is that backlash.  His candidacy for President and subsequent win via the electoral college is a tribal response to the idea of losing tribal power … power perceived by racial or social groups within the United States and national power globally.

Essentially, “the more unsettled and uncertain we feel and the less we feel we have control over how things are going – feelings that make us feel threatened –  the more we circle the wagons and fiercely fight for tribal success, looking to the tribe to keep us safe.”  – David Ropeik, “How Tribalism Overrules Reason, and Makes Risky Times More Dangerous,” BIG THINK (

Tribalism taken to the extreme is Hitler and Stalin … and the Ku Klux Klan … or, perhaps, Trump.