Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory has dropped 11 points, from 54 percent to 43 percent.
So while there was a 10-point gap in 2009, there is now a 24-point gap.
Since the election of Barack Obama, there has been a marked uptick in conservative interest in expanding the “us vs. them” mentality, with an eyeball towards finding more and more ways to distinguish themselves from everyone else. It’s not enough to drive a pick-up and listen to shitty country music to demonstrate your cultural identity as a wingnut. After all, there are liberals who do that. Now showing that you’re Not Like Them has turned into a full-time preoccupation, with the list of things that can’t be done because some liberal might also do them growing. Just check out this list from Media Matters of the things that are deemed products of “wussification”: yoga, paid internships, helmets, not being racist, not being able to curse at children. Then there’s the growing hostility on the right to the very concept of health, with the WSJ publishing op-eds lambasting running and, of course, the relentless demonizing of Michelle Obama for her campaign to encourage healthy eating. And now it’s apparently unpatriotic and probably communist to wear, um, plaid pajamas because some guy in an Obamacare ad is wearing them. We’re veering dangerously close to conservatives casting aspersions on those known liberal activities like “leaving the house” and “wearing clothes”. The evolution thing is a no-brainer. Liberals believe in evolution and everyone knows it, so conservatives are deciding, as a matter of tribal identity, that they cannot.
That’s what makes this Duck Dynasty thing so interesting, as ridiculous as it is. Conservatives by and large have avoided trying anything so foolish as to defend what Phil Roberston actually said. The defenses of him are strictly about establishing tribal identity. He’s One Of Us, the thinking goes, and so he must be defended against those meanie liberals. It doesn’t go any deeper than that. All the smarmy hand-wringing out how liberals are supposedly intolerant for disagreeing that gay people are bad is more of the same: A refusal to actually talk about content in favor of trying to fan the belief that there’s wide cultural differences between conservatives and liberals. It’s all just about creating the sense that they have a “tribe” and they must vote Republican out of loyalty to it. Indeed, I’d argue that establishing tribal identity is all Duck Dynasty is about, mostly through ridiculous costumes.