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Perspective: Tribalism


So, as I am writing this, House Republicans are in a bare knuckle fight to determine who will be Speaker of the House for the 188th Congress. Deep in this fight, and not surprisingly, are far right wing members who were reelected in 2022. Some of these names are familiar: Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Paul Gosar of Arizona. The fact that they were reelected baffles me on two counts. The first count is simply why they were reelected. The second count is the margins by which most of them won.

Matt Gaetz of Florida, who received 197,320 votes for 68% of the vote in his district, has fat-shamed teenage girls online, in addition to making other outrageous statements.

Marjorie Taylor Green from Georgia, who has verbally attacked survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and had worries about Jewish space lasers, received 170,003 votes for 69.3% of the vote in her district.

Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a high school dropout, only won her district by 600 votes in 2022. She stated in a speech last year that, “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk.” Guess she isn’t familiar with the Establishment Clause.

Paul Gosar, who won his seat by default in 2022 as it was uncontested, posted a violent video on social media showing him appearing to kill Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and attacking President Biden and has been associated with white nationalist groups.

Here’s another thing I don’t understand. It’s one thing to be an unpalatable, unhinged and ill-educated human being. But, it’s another thing to vote for such a human being. How does party tribalism get to the point where an “R” or a “D” next to a candidate’s name outweighs that candidate’s qualifications and the degree to which they are rooted in objective reality?

Andrew Nelson has been involved in public education in northern Illinois for more than three decades.