However you might feel about a given Trump scandal, ask yourself how you’d feel if it was President Hillary Clinton facing the same challenge.
The events of this dizzying week present us ample opportunities to take the Earth 2 Test. Imagine we’re on an alternate planet where Hillary Clinton won the election and the parties and players are flipped. Then ask yourself if you would care if she and the Democrats were doing it.
For instance, late last week we had a mini-scandal when Ivanka Trump briefly sat in for the president at a G20 meeting. A lot of my GOP friends insisted that this was all perfectly above board and no big deal and the sort of thing that happens all the time. And maybe that’s true; I don’t know much about diplomatic protocol.
But I do know about Republican politics. And if Hillary Clinton was president and she was at the G20 summit and she had Chelsea sit in for her, I can tell you with total certainty that Republicans would have flipped out about it. Hannity and Limbaugh would have spent two solid days talking about nothing else and Republican Twitter would have been outraged. So maybe Ivanka sitting in her dad’s chair isn’t the end of the world. But neither is it unreasonable to be concerned about it.
So before you come to any initial conclusions about Donald Trump Jr.’s don’t-call-it-collusion with the Russians, put the situation to the Earth 2 Test: If Clinton were president and you saw an email from the campaign where Chelsea had been informed that the Russian government had damaging information about Trump and she jumped at the chance to get it and said she’d really love to use it later in the summer and rushed to have a meeting with the Russians—would you think it was all just an overblown media story that didn’t matter?
Of course not.
I’d submit to you that tribalism is the number one disease in American politics, because it’s a value set completely untethered from ideology, or reality, or community. The tribalist view is the identity-politics view.
Now we can argue about which side incubated this virus within the body politic. (I’d make the case that it was the left.) But ultimately that doesn’t much matter. The question is whether we want to give in to it, or try to roll it back. When I look around the world at the state of countries defined by tribalism, I’m strongly inclined toward the latter option.
Which is why I encourage people to constantly run the Earth 2 Test.