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It’s “vibes and tribes” that shape our politics

Emmanuel Macron: the same tribe as Rishi Sunak. Hannibal Hanschke/Pool/Getty

Why is Rishi Sunak, who supported Brexit before it was popular, trailing among Tory members to Liz Truss, who vigorously campaigned to remain? It’s all about vibes, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Sunak and Truss are both Oxford graduates “of public-sector middle-class stock”, but Sunak gives off a know-it-all, “richer than God” vibe. Truss, however, seems no-nonsense and “regional”. People care about “vibes and tribes” far more than they do about ideology. I’m certainly guilty of it: I like Sunak and Emmanuel Macron because they are my kind of people. “They dress and act like the average of my 10 best friends. If there are some awkward policies in the way, I will reinterpret them.”

Here’s a related thought experiment. Imagine that Donald Trump had shut America down at the beginning of the pandemic, and Angela Merkel had kept Germany open. He would have justified his action as protecting the homeland, while she would have stressed liberal ideals, and a wish not to repeat the totalitarianism of her youth in East Germany. The culture war would have played out in an “exactly inverted” fashion. It would have been “a badge of right-wing pride” to mask up and stay in; it would have been a progressive statement “to bare your face and party”. Our beliefs don’t determine our tribe – our tribe determines our beliefs.