The well-known financial planner and radio show host Dawn J. Bennett recently wrote an article titled, “2016: The Year of Tribalism.” In the article she says, “In the rise of both Bernie Sanders’ progressive populism and Donald Trump’s nationalist populism, we are increasingly seeing voters choosing a new sort of Internet-era tribalism, banding together in communities so like-minded that they serve as echo chambers for shared hopes and fears alike.”
According to Bennett, this new tribalism is enabled and intensified by the Internet and technology. The Internet and technology allow smaller groups to have a larger voice, resulting in political institutions that have become “increasingly fractious coalitions of polarized factions.”
“The Democratic Party tries to coalesce Bernie’s socialist tribe, the mainline Clinton progressives, environmentalist groups, groups defined by gender and race, and more,” says Bennett. “The Republican tent holds mainline fiscal conservatives, the Tea Party, Trump’s nationalist populists, religiously motivated groups, and several flavors of libertarians. It’s messy, much more gray area than the clearly drawn lines we wish existed to make our choices easier.”
Bennett says there’s a dark side to tribalism. Tribalism can produce an “us versus them” feeling— “If you’re not with us you’re against us, and if you’re against us you’re the enemy.” This feeling has been present since the election, with group demonstrations against Donald Trump’s victory, as well as an increase in individual physical and verbal attacks that are motivated by the election’s outcome.
There are also benefits to tribalism, according to Bennett. “With such commonality of purpose and belief, these tribes can be very passionate, enthusiastic and creative and compelling,” she says. “They produce leaders like Trump, who are willing to take risks, to challenge what has gone before, and to inspire others to do the same. And if that energy can be harnessed and not allowed to run amok, I think we actually have the potential to meet our challenging global future.”
She continued, “My advice in this time of change boils down to this: gather your own information, listen to many viewpoints, and in the end make your own decisions. Protect your wealth, protect your future. By doing so thoughtfully, you will of necessity be engaging beyond your own tribes, and your voice will have a chance to contribute to the conversation that must take place to lead our country into the future.”