There are times when a writer worries about something they need to say, and how it may be perceived. This is one of them, but I have been following a political phenomenon for some time and would like to call attention to it and what I think it means for the future.
In politics, we often see the Left reaching out to a coalition of the aggrieved. The idea is that if they can unite women and minorities, they can win everything all the time and dominate the future. To accomplish this, they often raise divisive issues that pit people against each other, using race, gender, and sexuality as a wedge and bludgeon. This has created a reactionary phenomenon often associated with the right, called the Silent Majority. It is a coalition of people who aren’t what the left alleges, as most Americans are just too busy working and raising their families to care much about what people around them look like or who they sleep with. They are tired of being accused and being the “other” the left blames for all the world’s problems. Naturally, feeling the need to defend themselves, they have begun to organize as well. But in recent years, both sides have become increasingly loud. Two minutes on Twitter was enough to exhaust you with the Left. Now that it has become extreme, two minutes there will exhaust you of those who claim to be the Silent Majority. At least online, they’re anything but. In response to the activists targeting them, they have become activists fighting back. It’s understandable, but both sides have become so full of rage it has created a new and larger faction that neither side seems aware of, and they need to be.
Say something the Progressives don’t like, get called Nazi, Fascist, racist, bigot, sexist, or homophobic. Say something the Right doesn’t like, especially if it’s critical of Trump, get called traitor, communist, RINO, establishment, or Uniparty. Both sides have drained these terms, and many others, of any real meaning by using them arbitrarily and inappropriately at the first sign of even the mildest disagreement. Hearing these terms lobbed at them no longer makes most people angry, they just cringe and walk away from the keyboard. In fact, abstaining from the keyboard is what makes the new political tribe so hard to detect.
This new group is what you might call a hidden tribe. In 2018, the Hidden Tribes project was released to try and understand where Americans really are politically. What they found was rather surprising. They discovered that the far-left Progressive activists, the loudest voices of the Left, only make up 8% of the population. The loudest voices on the Right make up only 6%. The largest share of us exists in a group of mixed philosophies that can lean left or right but generally are in an exhausted middle. That means the hardliners are quite literally a fringe minority. But that makes dealing with both of them all the more difficult, especially since the behavior of these two groups is so similar. Name-calling, dismissing inconvenient facts, and going out of their way to vilify you for even daring to ask questions… Is your candidate maybe… too old? Or could your candidate maybe not be so mean/flighty/rude/inconsiderate/inconsistent? If you dare question them, you are the bad guy. Both groups of activists are wed to their candidates, and neither will ever leer a critical eye to their candidate of choice. Everything for the tribe, nothing outside the tribe.
Case in point, the Virginia Democratic Party recently had an embarrassing episode when candidate Susanna Gibson was caught selling explicit pornography for profit on a streaming website. The fringe 8% (CNN) leapt to her defense. Never mind that she is a married mother with children who openly admits in these videos to having been with men who are not her husband, we are expected to believe that pointing out her lack of moral character is a sex crime. See, as I suggested earlier, call them out, and you are the bad guy. After all, you weren’t supposed to notice she did something really bad. Since you did, you’re the problem.
Meanwhile, Colorado House Seat 3 Representative, and hardline Trump supporter, Lauren Boebert, a married woman, was caught in a public theater with her side man, alleged to be a far-Left bar owner who regularly hosts “family-friendly” drag shows, according to some on X. It’s bad enough that she is with a man who is not her husband (her divorce has not completed yet), this married mother also engaged in… pleasuring him… while he groped her in a public theater, with children around them. When they were finished pleasuring each other, Boebert then began vaping, again, in a public theater, with children around. When the usher asked her to put it away, she blew up at him. At first, she and her supporters tried to deny it, but then a complete video from a security camera ended up being shared all over X. She absolutely did these things. Denial is pointless but to the hardline right, the responses range from defending Boebert with an appeal to conspiracy theories, such as bronco rush1988 on X, who said, “…isn’t it convenient that a camera was just on them…?” To Red State’s whataboutism, “Do I find Boebert’s behavior inappropriate? Sure. Is it a major political scandal compared to some of the other stuff we’ve seen recently? Not really.”
In both cases, a candidate of the major parties got caught in a serious sexual scandal. Both involve married women with children stepping out on their husbands, but in both cases, the loudest voices defend their candidates vigorously, even though we can count on them to cast aspersions at the other party’s candidates. And if you notice? You are the problem. Perhaps the Right-leaning activists were justified in their activism in the beginning. But considering that two very similar events on the left and the right yielded defense of one and condemnation of the other, just as we see the Left do, are they becoming the very thing they’ve been fighting against?
Trying to navigate such tumultuous waters is extremely exhausting. The average American is at a point where they think the activities of both sides are entirely insufferable. They don’t like the candidates either side is choosing, they are calling for both parties to select younger, more in-touch candidates, and they feel like no one is listening. How do I know? Well, I actually talk to people on the street, every chance I get. I’m finding these people everywhere I go. Some of them will even say they will back their party’s candidates online, but in person, lament how old and out of touch, rude, or inconsiderate their candidates can be. Online, however, many of the concerns of the exhausted middle are just dismissed. After all, how big can they really be?
If we look at this chart from Hidden Tribes, massive:
The range Hidden Tribes reveals shows everyone from Moderates to Traditional Liberals as the exhausted middle or majority. But that was 2018. It’s 2023 now, and I am finding many traditional conservatives in my circle who fit this description as well. Online they are, “raw, raw our candidates!” Offline they lament that the candidates aren’t actually living the standards of the GOP platform. Excuses are being made for vulgar behavior, exceptions being made the way we often accuse the Establishment of making excuses when they drop any pretense of fiscal conservatism and spend us off a cliff. More and more they are becoming disenchanted with the activist wing of the party, as they are the chronic spenders, movers, and cavers that we universally feel let down by. More and more of them are just stepping away from politics altogether, feeling it’s not worth losing friends or crew schism in their family to raise questions about the candidates’ many issues, age, behavior, etc. That disenchantment is becoming apathy. After all, if the establishment is corrupt, and the activists themselves have become corrupt, there’s nothing else for it. Why bother?
It’s easy for the 8% and the 6% to just dismiss details such as this. After all, both have done an excellent job of putting themselves in bubbles that reinforce their beliefs and never allowing those ideas to be challenged. The exhausted middle, however, is sick to death of both of them. They’re sick of the name-calling, of the accusations, the inconsistencies in morals, values, and principles. They want an end to big personalities, camera seekers, yelling and screaming, and showboating. Today, they want a return to normalcy, a return to quiet times. They are flexible, want us to work together, and are sick of the division in our country. They are not exclusively on one side of the aisle or the other, in fact, I would venture that they probably don’t care which party wins as long as they put a stop to the noise. The more people I talk to on the street, the more convinced I am that the exhausted middle is both bigger than even Hidden Tribes found, and they will ultimately decide the 2024 elections. The party’s activists and establishment figures can continue to ignore, ridicule, and alienate them if they choose, it is theoretically a free country after all, but they do so at their own political peril. A little consistency and a willingness to take us back to quieter times will go a long way.
2- Virginia Democrat in key state House race calls sharing of pornographic videos ‘the worst gutter politics.’ Eric Bradner, CNN.com, https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2023/09/12/politics/susanna-gibson-virginia-sex-acts/index.html
4-Here’s the real problem with Lauren Boebert’s ‘Beetlejuice’ Episode, Binchie, RedState.com, https://redstate.com/bonchie/2023/09/16/heres-the-real-problem-with-lauren-boeberts-public-fondling-episode-n2163888, accessed 9/17/23