Understanding Liberals – A Discussion of Tribalism, Mass Delusion, and GroupThink

Understanding Liberals – A Discussion of Tribalism, Mass Delusion, and GroupThink

by Don Rosenberg 7/30/19

As I meet with people across our country, I see such polarization that I am concerned with the future of America. Is this division normal or is there something else going on? In other articles I’ve discussed the myriad groups that benefit from internal division in the United States – including foreign governments, drug cartels, the media, and even political parties themselves.

One can easily understand why a weak United States would benefit foreign governments and drug cartels – they want to pursue their goals of expansion and drug dealing without opposition. And the media and political parties know that no one will watch their TV news channel or make donations to their candidates if they talk about how the other side is comprised of “nice people we can get along with.” No, to get viewership or donations every situation must be a crisis.

When I talk with a liberal I am surprised how strong his beliefs are compared to his understanding of the facts. How is it possible to believe the wholesale lies of the Left in the face of the hard facts that disprove them?

Here are just a few examples…

  • Raising the national minimum wage to $15 will help the poor.
  • Having open borders is good for our country.
  • Everyone can have free health care.
  • We can pay off all student loan debt.
  • We can fix global warming by penalizing just the United States.
  • Illegal aliens should all get free health care.
  • It’s a good idea to send every person in the United States $1,000 per month.
  • We can send everyone to college for free.
  • The rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.


Research from psychologists shows that brain scans of people having political discussions indicates the activity is in the emotional (not rational) part of the brain. This forms the basis for tribalism as a big part of our emotional makeup. Once you pick a tribe (a political party, or a football team), you only accept information that confirms your tribe and ignore and even become more loyal when confronted with conflicting evidence.

I use the example of the star quarterback of your favorite team. You love him, his family, his charities. But when he is traded to another city, the next day you hate everything to do with him. Why is that? He’s the same person, just 24 hours later!

Tribalism was good for humans in prehistory – if you had a group that would question their leader at critical times, the group would not survive. We are programmed in our genes to follow our leaders and be loyal to our tribe at all costs.


Tribalism seems to explain part of the question, but can this be considered abnormal behavior?

From WebMD… (my emphasis in bold.)

Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a psychotic disorder. People who have it can’t tell what’s real from what is imagined.

Delusions are the main symptom of delusional disorder. They’re unshakable beliefs in something that isn’t true or based on reality. But that doesn’t mean they’re completely unrealistic. Delusional disorder involves delusions that aren’t bizarre, having to do with situations that could happen in real life, like being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve mistaken perceptions or experiences. But in reality, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated…

Among the types of possible delusions…

Persecutory: Someone who has this believes they (or someone close to them) are being mistreated, or that someone is spying on them or planning to harm them.

And the causes listed include genetics and biology, but also include…

Environmental/psychological: Evidence suggests that stress can trigger delusional disorder.

And the trigger? What greater stress could there be to have every news outlet in the country declare that Hillary Clinton will win the election in a landslide, only to have the opposite result? Look at the faces of Hillary supporters at her victory party, or the liberal newscasters realizing the election wasn’t going their way. The sobbing, the crying, the screaming. Certainly this stress could lead to a mass delusion that the election was stolen or Trump had to cheat or collude with the Russians to win.

And the article concludes…

…Delusional disorder can be very difficult to treat, in part because those who have it often have poor insight and do not know there’s a psychiatric problem….

Unfortunately, many people with this disorder don’t seek help. It’s often hard for people with a mental disorder to know they aren’t well. Or they may credit their symptoms to other things, like the environment. They also might be too embarrassed or afraid to seek treatment. Without treatment, delusional disorder can be a lifelong illness.


Psychologist Irving L. Janis coined the term “GroupThink” to how people react in political matters.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a group forms a quick opinion that matches the group consensus, rather than critically evaluating the information. Mass hysteria can be seen as an extreme example of groupthink.

Groupthink seems to occur most often when a respected or persuasive leader is present, inspiring members to agree with his or her opinion. Groupthink is sometimes positive but is more often seen in a negative light, particularly in the U.S. and other countries that value individual opinion.

“…groupthink” is “a psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses dissent and appraisal of alternatives in cohesive decision-making groups.”

Janis identified eight symptoms of groupthink, which included illusions of invulnerability, self-censorship and direct pressure.

…Some psychologists believe mass hysteria is a form of groupthink. In cases of mass hysteria, the group members all develop a common fear that often spirals into a panic. The group members feed off each other’s emotional reactions, causing the panic to escalate.

The Salem witch trials and the panic over the War of the Worlds radio broadcast can be viewed as examples of mass hysteria related to groupthink.

The Wikipedia listing for delusion…

A delusion is a firm and fixed belief based on inadequate grounds not amenable to rational argument or evidence to contrary, not in sync with regional, cultural and educational background.


This research gives us a better understanding of how normally rational people can ignore basic facts in order to cling to an alternate reality, especially when you consider the fact that the news media they consume show nothing but the same alternate universe.

I conclude that people who hold these extreme views are being taken advantage of by a cabal of people, organizations and countries who use their natural inclinations toward tribal loyalty to manipulate them for gain – votes, viewership, or to support opposition to anything that concludes the United States should have a leadership role in the world.

And the most insidious part of the process is that they use altruistic arguments as the rationale behind their positions.

Look at our sample list again…

  • Raising the national minimum wage to $15 will help the poor.
  • Having open borders is good for our country.
  • Everyone can have free health care.
  • We can pay off all student loan debt.
  • We can fix global warming by penalizing just the United States.
  • Illegal aliens should all get free health care.
  • It’s a good idea to send every person in the United States $1,000 per month.
  • We can send everyone to college for free.
  • The rich aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.

By supporting these policies, people can say they’re helping the poor, the tired, the weary, everyone can have free health care and free college and a guaranteed income, regardless of whether they work for it. And it’s all paid for by getting “the evil rich” to pay for it. It’s not fair that those people have all the money!

It’s the feeling that they want. “I’m a good person, I want to help everyone.” They don’t care if the policy actually accomplishes the stated goal.

If you disagree with them, you’re a horrible person. And things have escalated to such an extent that if your beliefs differ, your religious freedoms can be taken away, your speech can be censored, you can be fired from your job and you can even be beaten in public for carrying an opposing sign or expressing a contrary opinion. All from people who claim to be tolerant and open-minded.

Perhaps the best example of this kind of reverse groupthink delusion is ardent support for Antifa, which actually stands for “Anti-fascist” while they use classic fascist techniques of intimidation and street violence. This is not rational thinking.


So where do we go from here?

I would say that trying to tell a Leftist that he’s wrong is not going to work. Any direct statement is automatically replied to with opposition.

I have found that honest questions, presented in a non-threatening manner, seem to work the best. I take the position that I am open-minded and just want to understand their position.

Take the example of the $15 minimum wage. Here are my questions…

“I hear you favor the $15 minimum wage. Can you tell me what you’re trying to accomplish with this?”

The response would likely be “Everyone should have a living wage.”

“Do you know how many people actually are at the minimum wage level now?”

Their guess would probably be 20-30% of hourly workers.

“I looked it up and it’s 2.3% of all hourly workers.”

FYI, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says…

In 2017, 80.4 million workers age 16 and older in the United States were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.3 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 542,000 workers earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 1.3 million had wages below the federal minimum. Together, these 1.8 million workers with wages at or below the federal minimum made up 2.3 percent of all hourly paid workers.

“Do you know how many of those are heads of households?”

The facts… “Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.”

So that’s 1.15% of all hourly workers.

“Do you know how many people are fired when the minimum wage goes up?”

Statistics show that even small increases in minimum wage lead to job cuts. No studies have been done on what would happen if the rate was doubled, but you can guarantee that businesses that offer outsourcing, kiosks, self-service and robotics would experience a major upsurge.

If your pay doubles, but a friend loses her job to a kiosk, is that a good outcome? You make a living wage; she has to go on welfare or unemployment.


At this point I say “I agree you’re a compassionate person and you want to help people. But what if an idea doesn’t work? Should you keep doing it forever or try something else? Do results matter? It’s a good and compassionate idea to get more income to more workers, especially those with families. How can we accomplish this?”

And the discussion starts to get into the real solutions of better education and job training, etc. that actually lead to measurable improvements, not just good feelings.


Another thing I’ve seen that seems to work when overcoming tribal positions is the man-in-the-street video interview. A college student is asked, “Which person made this statement on open borders?” They then read a quote about the need for strong border security. The response is always “Trump.” But when it’s revealed that the speaker is Obama, Hillary Clinton, or even Bill Clinton, the reaction is “Wow! I didn’t know that! I thought that only Trump wants border security!”

Obama and the Clintons are part of their tribe. They are conditioned to believe everything they say, but now they’re saying something that agrees with “the enemy.” You can see by the expressions on their faces, their world views are in conflict.

If we are to continue the improvements made by the Trump administration, in business, foreign affairs, job and wage growth, etc. and defeat the Deep State trying to unseat him, we must find ways to get like-minded voters to the polls and bring ten of their friends with them. But we also need to find ways to connect with those in the middle who are being brainwashed with groupthink. And finally, we need to learn how to meet with true liberals and get them to understand that we’re not the enemy, just fellow Americans who want the best for them and the rest of the country.

Any ideas and suggestions you may have are greatly appreciated and may be included in future writings.

Don Rosenberg is Executive Editor of the Citizen Sentinels Newsletter and co-founder of Red America Consulting, a group of conservatives dedicated to helping like-minded men and women run for high public office.





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