It feels really good to be right.
When you know you’re on the winning end of an argument and you get to watch your opponent grasp at straws, there is nothing more satisfying. It also feels quite good to know you’re right among a group of your peers who have your back. Sometimes, we want to be right so badly we attach ourselves to a group and defend their positions no matter what. This is called tribalism. It is perhaps better known as the American Two-Party System.
The issue tribalism in politics creates is the unwillingness of an individual to acknowledge new information that conflicts with their group’s views because of the fear that it will alienate their “tribe.”
Take for example the Democrat’s talking point: “Women make 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” With a little research, anyone can find that this statement is misleading at best. This statistic doesn’t actually compare ‘the same work’ at all. It compares flat salaries. The actual statistic shrinks the disparity by a considerable amount, one study found that men and women a year out of college have a wage gap of around 7 percent.
The initial statistic also rarely accounts for external factors like the fields women choose to enter and the larger child care responsibility women often take on. To point this out is often construed as misogyny because it goes against the groupthink of the left. Instead, one would think this would be celebrated as a victory. Women are not as unfairly treated in the workforce as was previously thought.
This is certainly not only a problem on the left. The right is just as tribal, and just as unwilling to listen to the facts that contradict their ideology. There are few things many conservatives like to talk about more than voter fraud. The only issue with discussing voter fraud is that it doesn’t exist and never has, at least not on a large enough scale for it to matter. When confronted with study after study concluding that voter fraud in the U.S. is negligible, the right often sticks to their guns. They choose their party, rather than facts because it is more comfortable to do so.
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A politician’s worst nightmare is to be labeled a flip-flopper. Somebody who changes their mind on an issue. However, a flip-flopping politician could just be a pragmatic thinker who is willing to change their position when confronted with facts that contradict it.
We are a nation that loves to be correct, we choose facts carefully to support our position rather than making sure our position is supported by the facts. It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
Let’s check our tribalism at the door and prioritize the truth over comfort.
Will Stern ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism.