While your analysis of control structures here seems accurate, I can’t really agree with the idea that the red tribe is structurally opposed to blue tribe methods. If we’re using Scott Alexander’s terminology here, then when we talk about the red tribe we’re actually talking about an equally top-down system with a different set of values and many parallel structures (the red and blue tribe each have competing newspapers, cable television networks, magazines, radio stations, and brands of beer; not only that, but the red tribe has even duplicated schooling infrastructure in some cases); when we talk about a group associated with collective bottom-up control, we’re talking about the grey tribe, which (trending both libertarian and civil-libertarian) has values that don’t align well with either of the larger tribes. While the grey tribe is ascending in importance, it does not yet wield a lot of political control — and probably won’t until most of the population born before 1970 dies.

The ascent of Trump isn’t really in line with grey tribe values — in terms of traditional political divisions, the grey tribe is pretty evenly divided, and on the one matter they agree upon (preference for bottom-up control over top-down control) he doesn’t have a good track record. He, and his administration, really represents red tribe authoritarianism: power based on charisma and physical dominance signalling rather than credentials and education. He gained power by spending a lot of time playing the broadcast image game in a way that specifically appealed to the red tribe: acting out a fantasy of power based on in-born superior skills that reside in the gut (i.e., the outsider capitalist figure); if he was a successful businessman, that would have given him blue tribe cred, which would have nuked his red tribe cred, but by playing the role of a failed businessman’s idea of a successful businessman on television he catered to his audience.

This is not to say that the grey tribe has nothing to do with it. The ascent of bottom-up media made top-down structures easier to duplicate and scale; the red tribe was able to separate from the blue tribe primarily by repurposing the bottom-up tech of the grey tribe as top-down and duplicating blue tribe systems en masse at low cost. The current polarization is a result: the red tribe and blue tribe are of nearly equal power, and almost completely isolated from each other. They will attempt to cancel each other out, which increases the relative power of the grey tribe.

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Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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