Human beings are a bundle of contradictions. Multiple instincts compete. Then, from time to time, external factors trigger particular inner experiences and the national mood fluctuates. Politicians, especially the President, amplify one human potential or another. To garner support, new leaders contrast themselves to old leaders. The pendulum swings.
In Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America, John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck examine this dynamic. They argue:
Simply being a member of a group is not the same thing as identifying or sympathizing with that group. The key is whether people feel a psychological attachment to a group….
The...power of group identities...depends on context. One part of the context is the possibility of gains and losses for the group…,[which] can be tangible...or symbolic, such as psychological status….
Another and arguably even more important element of the context is political actors. They help articulate the content of a group identity, or what it means to be part of a group. Political actors also identify, and sometimes exaggerate or even invent, threats to a group. Political actors can then make group identities and attitudes more salient and elevate them as criteria for decision-making.
Group loyalties “can and often do” create hostility toward other groups. But relationships to other groups “do not have to be competitive.”Read More