Coalitions and “Facts”
Henry Kim

Ever since Trump’s election, I’ve been reading a few conservative websites. One motivation is to better understand how conservatives think; another is to detect any signs of erosion in support for Trump.

Within the conservative coalition, there’s considerable angst. Suddenly, you are no longer considered a conservative if you believe in smaller government or a strict interpretation of the Constitution; you are only a conservative if you agree with Trump. For the people who joined the coalition simply for security, trading one set of coalitional facts for another was an easy transition. But, for the small minority who genuinely believe in conservative principles, they feel the coalition has abandoned them—and they’re shocked to discover that most of their coalition partners never held conservatives principles at all.

As you point out, joining a coalition is rational behavior, especially when it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s kind of fun, and relatively harmless, to signal your support for a particular sports team—as long as you don’t take it too far. But when we’ve got real skin in the game, our thinking tends to be more nuanced. You’ve described how politicians use simplistic pro-farming signals to attract non-farmers. But those same signals don’t work on actual farmers because it pays for actual farmers to pay close attention to policy details and actual voting records.

If we’re choosing coalitional facts over real facts when we do have skin in the game, that tells me that we’re not seeing much benefit in acting on real facts. Because, if we did see some people leave the safety of the coalition and act on real facts, and if those people were getting ahead because they were acting on real facts, then more people would join them and a new coalition would form around those facts. The coalition problem goes away once we’re able to act on real facts effectively. For some reason, that’s not happening.