LETTER: Kennedy argues against tribalism with tribalism

IUPUI law professor Sheila Suess Kennedy’s recent op-ed [Our hyper-partisan politics can be deadly, July 3] postulated that Republicans do not pay sufficient attention to science, that President Trump has “ignored the threat” of coronavirus and that the right’s political dogma—or, tribalism—“can kill you.”

Kennedy points to a New York Times poll where Americans “strongly favored” measures to control the pandemic over efforts to “reopen” the economy. The poll, by the Times and Siena College, posed these statements:

The federal government’s priority should be to contain the spread of the coronavirus, even it if hurts the economy.

The federal government’s priority should be to restart the economy, even if it increases the risk to public health.

It does not surprise that 61% of Republicans opted for the latter, while 80% of Democrats opted for the former. By way of stereotyping, Republicans favor the rights of the individual while Democrats favor the power of government.

But why is it an either/or proposition? It is not, nor has it ever been, an either/or proposition. And for Kennedy to quote Paul Krugman, and state that COVID-19 is not, “the kind of menace the (Republican) party wants to acknowledge” is simply untrue. Rather, it’s the kind of ugly partisanship that Kennedy’s piece claims to warn against.

Kennedy writes: “It’s not that the right is averse to fearmongering. But it doesn’t want you to fear impersonal threats that require an effective policy response, not to mention inconveniences like wearing face masks; it wants you to be afraid of people you can hate: people of a different race or supercilious liberals.”

Ignoring the tribalism being shown here (and the gratuitous throw of “blue” meat), a response that shutters businesses, increases suicides and threatens the long-term stability of the nation—shutdowns doing all of those things—is not an effective policy response. A proper response measures the reality of the virus with the reality of the citizen, all within the context of the Constitution.

The questions America should be asking are: How do we fight this virus while remaining true to our liberty society? How do we learn about this virus from others, but beat it in a wholly American way?

These are not the questions asked by Sheila Kennedy. Instead, she proffers attack politics and nonsensical tribalism. Hoosiers and Americans should rebuff both.


Tony Katz

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One thought on “LETTER: Kennedy argues against tribalism with tribalism

  1. Sheila Suess Kennedy is not about freedom and liberty. She is about being enlightened and knowing what is best for you. Being a totalitarian makes you good at telling other people what to do while those who are enlightened operate under a different set of rules.
    “it wants you to be afraid of people you can hate: people of a different race or supercilious liberals.” See the problem is people who seek freedom and liberty don’t have to hate. We don’t see every issue as a color. And the tolerant left are the ones who hate “Christians” and the conservatives. See we get our rights from God, not government so it is not for us to pick winners and loser based on ideology.