Gun and Immigration Debates Entrench Tribal Divisions in United States

The gap between between the Republican “coalition of restoration” and the Democratic “coalition of transformation” continues to widen.

United States Capitol Washington
Skyline of Washington DC at night (Shutterstock)

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic that Republicans in his country have become a “coalition of restoration”: older, blue-collar, evangelical and non-urban whites most uneasy about the tectonic cultural and economic forces reshaping American life. Republican lawmakers represent those areas with the most guns and the fewest immigrants.

Democrats, by contrast, rely on a heavily urbanized “coalition of transformation”: minorities, millennials and college-educated and secular white voters, especially women. Democratic voters have fewer guns and live in places with more immigrants.

We can see a similar divide in Europe. On the one hand, inward-looking, typically lower-educated voters living in small towns and the countryside; on the other, cosmopolitan college graduates living in the big cities.

Widening the gap

Cultural and racial controversies only widen the gap, writes Brownstein:

The more attention that is drawn to explosive cultural fights on immigration, guns and the like, the harder it becomes to survive for both red-state Democratic senators and Republican House members in blue metro areas.

Jonathan Rauch quotes from Amy Chua’s Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations in The Washington Post:

The left believes that right-wing tribalism — bigotry, racism — is tearing the country apart. The right believes that left-wing tribalism — identity politics, political correctness — is tearing the country apart. They are both right.

Dalibor Rohac has similarly argued that the nationalist right and the identitarian left feed off each other.

Tribalism, argues Rauch, is our default mode. De-tribalizing requires effort.


What can we do?

  • Americans should seriously consider constitutional reform. The two-party system, and the geographical sorting of voters into blue and red states, has turned politics into war. The usual give-and-take of democratic politics has become unacceptable to both sides.
  • All Western countries need a new social compact. The last century’s was built on strong trade unions, lifetime employment and health and pension benefits tied to salaried jobs. We need a system that reflects the economic realities of our time.