If you want to understand how much of political partisanship is mere tribalism rather than a commitment to an ideology or a set of policies, you need only look at how the Republican party has capitulated to Donald Trump. Imagine for a moment if a Democratic president did the following things:
1. Insult and undermine our closest allies, particularly in NATO, the foundation of the post-WW2 Western military and foreign policy regime.
2. Snuggled up to Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB and leader of our most powerful and dangerous rival on the world stage.
3. Launched a crusade of protectionist tariffs, something Republicans have long opposed while some factions on the left have long supported (sadly).
4. Constantly attacked the FBI, CIA and the rest of our federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, using ridiculous conspiracy theories to undermine their credibility.
Republicans would lose their everloving minds over any one of those things, much less all four at the same time. But they have embraced them all now because their new leader tells them to, no matter how inconsistent those positions are with traditional conservative beliefs. And while they’re doing that, they’re also attacking anyone who doesn’t support Trump as a RINO or a liberal.
But most Republicans have sold out completely to Trump because they don’t have a thoughtful, considered preference for conservative ideology and policies, they only have a strong desire to stick it to the other tribe, meaning Democrats. For them, partisanship is merely a marker of tribal identification. They are incapable of thinking beyond that framework and they instinctively follow the leader. Their thinking simply can’t go any deeper than that.