Stalwarts? Traditionalists? Tribalists? Cultists? Some Evidence

First, I’d thought to post a summary review of the third short philosophy book I’ve read recently — Bertrand Russell’s THE PROBLEMS OF PHILOSOPHY — but as the day turned out, I had time only to do another round-up of articles I’ve linked the past few days (which takes less time than a book review/profile). Will try to do Russell tomorrow. Of course, these links are all about philosophy in a sense…

  • A Catholic representative considers the nonreligious a “social liability”;
  • How Fearless Leader disregards the truth;
  • Short items: A Fox host defends the strong economy; how Trump staged a fake rally;
  • How Fox News wants Taylor Swift to shut up, while welcoming any number of other celebrities who support conservatives;
  • Red states targeting librarians;
  • How the GOP misrepresents the border bill;
  • WaPo on how the Republicans will never get another border security deal this good;
  • Adam Lee on Houston punishing those who feed the homeless;
  • Paul Krugman defends the idea that “immigrants make America stronger and richer”.

Stalwarts? Traditionalists? Tribalists? Cultists? Let’s look at some evidence. From just the past couple days.

Joe.My.God, 3 Feb 2024: Catholic League: The Unreligious Are A “Social Liability”

Via press release from the Catholic League:

The survey was huge: in the summer of 2023, 11,201 respondents were questioned about their religious beliefs. It found that nearly 3-in-10 Americans (28%) have no religious affiliation. Of that group, 17% say they are atheists; 20% identify as agnostic; and 63% confess to being “nothing in particular.”

Who are they? The typical “religious none” is young, white, identifies as a liberal, and votes for the Democrats. This is consistent with past research. Not surprisingly, nearly half of atheists and agnostics are college graduates; their professors did a good job. So right off the bat, these people are not just like the rest of us.

As we have seen, the data make it clear that the religiously unaffiliated have a different demographic profile than most Americans. We also know that they harbor a set of beliefs that sets them apart from the average person.

The data indicate that the religiously involved are a net plus to society; the religiously unaffiliated are a net minus. To put it differently, young, white, liberal Democrats are more likely to retreat unto themselves, drawing off the social capital of the rest of us. Quite frankly, they are a social liability.

Read the full press release.

Well, that’s about as tribal as you can get. He presumes that the “average person” is religious, despite the wide range of religious beliefs aside from Catholicism, and claims without evidence that the nonreligious “retreat unto themselves” and are therefore a social liability. And “their professors did a good job”? Meaning? They taught students about the real world that exists in spite of their religious… inculcation? That would be why educated people are less religious than less educated ones.


Fearless leader has an astonishing disregard for the truth.

PolitiFact, 1 Feb 2024: What PolitiFact learned in 1,000 fact-checks of Donald Trump
Here’s a chart:

There are additional charts with their own headings. I’ll bullet-point the subheadings in the article:

  • A relentless flow of ‘truthful hyperbole’
  • 79% of Trump’s tweets were rated Mostly False or lower; he did best in State of the Union addresses
  • Fact-checks of Trump peaked during the campaign years of 2016 and 2020, but True and Mostly True ratings were rare
  • By topic, Trump’s immigration claims stand out
  • Trump’s falsehoods have fueled threats to democracy

As I’ve long noted, conservatives/Republicans are driven by ideology over evidence. They *know* what’s true, and can’t be convinced otherwise. Thus they reject the recent good economic news, preferring to believe conspiracy theories about how the data was cooked, presumably by Taylor Swift.


Will this guy be fired?

Joe.My.God, 2 Feb 2024: Fox Host To Conservatives: Stop Trying To “Drill Holes” In Today’s Very Strong Economic Report, It Is What It Is


Joe.My.God, 2 Feb 2024: Trump Paid $20,000 To Stage Fake Michigan Union Rally



NY Times, James Poniewozik, 3 Feb 2024 (though in today’s print paper): Fox News Suddenly Wants Celebrities Out of Politics. Well, One Celebrity., subtitled “The news network that wants Taylor Swift to stick to singing has had no problem handing conservative celebrities the microphone.” (The print title is “Hypocrisy Is at the Core Of a Furor” with a similar subtitle.)

Of course, people are entitled to their opinions on celebrity political speech or the possible existence of a secret Pentagon diva lab. But if Fox News’s hosts truly believe that it’s irresponsible and dangerous to invite celebrities to weigh in on politics, they might want to turn their attention to … Fox News.

Over the years, Fox has invited Gene Simmons, the bassist of Kiss, to talk about the handling of an Ebola outbreak. It had the fashion model Fabio on to blame crime in California on liberalism. It gave us Kid Rock on cancel culture. Last year, the actor Jim Caviezel declared Donald J. Trump “the new Moses” on “Fox & Friends.”

And let’s not forget that Fox was instrumental in the entry into politics of a certain TV celebrity, whom you might know better as the candidate Mr. Biden will likely be running against.

I’ve long noted that Republicans are attracted to celebrity over substance. Reagan. Schwarzenegger. Trump. Otherwise, their candidates seem to be scions of wealthy families (the Bushes). See my review of the recent Andy Borowitz book.


Restricting free expression. Banning books is typically a first sign of an encroaching authoritarian regime. Only Proper Thoughts Are Allowed.

NY Times, David Firestone, 5 Feb 2024: Red States Are Taking Aim at Librarians

The latest target in the delirious campaign by Republican-led state governments to limit free expression is the American Library Association. Yes, the far right now considers the nation’s professional association of librarians a leftist propaganda gang.

Last week the Alabama public library agency, under pressure from Gov. Kay Ivey, withdrew from the library association. In recent months, state libraries in Florida, Wyoming, Montana, Missouri and Texas did the same thing, and more states are considering the move. It would be a little comical if it weren’t so harmful.


Lying with ulterior motives.

Washington Post, Aaron Blake, 5 Feb 2024: The GOP’s false ‘amnesty’ claims give away the game

When Donald Trump and his allies set about falsely claiming that an impending Senate immigration deal would greenlight 5,000 undocumented immigrants per day, lead GOP negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) predicted what would happen when the actual text of the deal was released and they were proved wrong.

“None of those folks are going to look at it and come to the press and apologize,” Lankford said last week. “They’ll find something different.”

The text of the bill was released Sunday night. It doesn’t support Trump allies’ claims. And not only are they not apologizing; they’ve ramped up the rhetoric in stunning ways, with some falsely labeling the bill “amnesty.”

They depend on their base not noticing.


The confluence of evidence indicates the Republicans would rather play victims, to Biden and the Democrats, than actually make any progress in solving the border problem. This is consistent with the Christian tradition of claiming oppression.

Washington Post, Editorial Board, 5 Feb 2024: Opinion | Republicans will never get another border security deal this good

The Republican Party should take yes for an answer. By torpedoing the Senate’s bipartisan immigration deal, under pressure from former president Donald Trump to preserve his election-year advantage on a wedge issue, congressional Republicans would blow an opportunity to reduce undocumented immigration and curtail mass crossings at the southern border — along with save Ukraine before it runs out of ammunition. The 370-page legislative text released Sunday night, promptly declared “dead on arrival” in the House by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), emerged from months of substantive discussions and careful compromises by all sides.


OnlySky, Adam Lee, 2 Feb 2024: Breaking bread: Houston tries to punish feeding the homeless—and fails

Is this also about Republicans? Well, no; it’s about overly-zealous police procedures.

In a story that recalls the ancient custom of sacred hospitality, the city of Houston is trying to punish a charity for feeding the homeless—but they can’t find a jury willing to go along with it.

Lee invokes Biblical passages that might well inform the entire immigration crisis — and to this extent, this incident implicates Republicans and conservatives.

If a guest shows up at your door, you offer them shelter, food, a place to rest by your fire. In ancient cultures, it was a universally understood moral obligation. To mistreat a wayfarer under your roof was a sure way to invite divine retribution.

The ancient Greeks told myths about gods traveling incognito and how they rewarded people who welcomed them. In the famous story of Baucis and Philemon, Zeus and Hermes shower blessings on two peasants who showed them hospitality when no one else would. The rest of the town, where the gods encountered only rich misers who barred their doors, is destroyed in a catastrophic flood.

The Bible, too, has exhortations about welcoming and entertaining strangers. In the Book of Isaiah, God commands his followers to “deal thy bread to the hungry, and… bring the poor that are cast out to thy house” (58:6-7). The Book of the Hebrews says to welcome strangers, if only because some of them are angels (13:2). And Jesus, in one of the better passages of the New Testament, tells his followers that however they treat strangers and the poor, they’ll be judged as if they treated Jesus himself that way (Matthew 25:31-46).

The incident involves a group of volunteers called Food Not Bombs, whose attempts to provide food for the homeless in Houston were met with police tickets. And yet, when those volunteers were taken to court, prosecutors couldn’t find jurors willing to convict them.


Finally, a discussion of the kind of evidence the stalwarts/traditionalists/tribalists/cultists refuse to acknowledge, not even by remembering their own immigrant ancestors’ pasts. (Remember, my own ancestors, coming to the US in the mid 1800s, were subject to “No Irish Need Apply” bigotry.)

Paul Krugman, NY Times, 5 Feb 2024: Immigrants Make America Stronger and Richer

Modern nations can’t — practically or politically — have open borders, which allow anyone who chooses to immigrate.

The good news is that America doesn’t have open borders, and there is no significant faction in our politics saying we should. In fact, immigrating to the United States legally is fairly difficult.

The bad news is that we’re having a hard time enforcing the rules on immigration, mainly because the relevant government agencies don’t have sufficient resources. And right now, the reason they don’t have those resources is that many Republicans in Congress, while fulminating about a border crisis, appear determined to deny the needed funding.

Their position is rooted in extraordinary political cynicism, and they aren’t even trying to hide it: Donald Trump has intervened with Republicans to block any immigration deal because he believes that chaos at the border will help his election prospects.

While blatant sabotage explains the current immigration impasse, however, there’s something else lurking behind it: Trump and those around him are profoundly hostile to immigration in general.

Partly this is xenophobia, if not outright racism. If you repeatedly declare, as Trump has, that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” you don’t really care if they came here legally, you’re all but saying that what matters is whether they’re white.

But it’s not just that. People close to Trump have a zero-sum view of the economy, in which every job taken by someone born outside the United States is a job taken away from someone born here.

This last view is wrong of course, because the expanding population, even if due to immigrants, entails more jobs, and more taxpayers. Krugman’s piece acknowledges this:

Did those foreign-born workers take jobs away from Americans — in particular, native-born Americans? No. America in early 2024 has full employment, with consumers who say that jobs are “plentiful” outnumbering those saying jobs are “hard to get” by almost five to one. The unemployment rate among native-born workers averaged just under 3.7 percent in 2023, as low as it’s been since the government began collecting the data.

In fact, I’d argue that the influx of foreign-born workers has helped the native born. There’s a large research literature on the economic impact of immigration, which consistently fails to find the often predicted negative effects on employment and wages. Instead, immigrant workers often turn out to be complementary to the native-born work force, bringing different skills that, in effect, help avoid supply bottlenecks and allow faster job creation. Silicon Valley, for instance, hires a lot of foreign-born engineers because they bring something additional to the table; the same is true for workers in many less-glamorous occupations.

And concluding:

Foreign-born workers are crucial to America’s fiscal future. To a first approximation, the federal government is a system that collects taxes from working-age adults and spends much of the proceeds on programs that help seniors, such as Medicare and Social Security. Cut off the flow of immigrants, who are largely working-age adults, and our system would become much less sustainable.

So while the mess at the border needs to be fixed — and could be fixed if Republicans would help solve the problem instead of exploit it for political advantage — don’t let that mess obscure the larger reality that immigration is one of America’s great sources of power and prosperity.

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