LOYALTY SIGNALING IN POLITICS
My impression is that our political behavior is driven largely by coalition loyalty, by the desire to belong to a certain in-group or "tribe", and that the political behavior of citizens is often better explained as an attempt to signal loyalty to “our side”, rather than as an attempt to improve outcomes. Therefore we are not only - or not primarily - motivated to "do the right thing", we also have the motives of the partisan : wanting to appear loyal to the groups around us, and signaling our loyalty.
The desire to signal loyalty helps explain why we sometimes do not vote according to our self-interest (i.e., for the candidates and policies that would bring us, as individuals, the greatest benefit). Rather, we tend to vote for our group's interests. In this view, voting is seen as providing a psychological reward, like getting to “affirm one’s identity” or “feel a sense of belonging.”
I think what you have said used to be more true in the past than now. Political identification is fracturing, and it is a global phenomenon. Political systems are in more turmoil because of it. Whether you think this is good or bad depends on where you stand on traditional political structures. The indisputable fact is that politics has become more volatile and less predictable.
Maybe for many it is. But for others, like myself, I refuse to join a 'party' because i want to vote my conscience and not someone else's platform. I have lived on the margins all my life and am uncomfortable with joining and losing my independent thought.
I was thinking about this recently. It gets even more twisted when you factor in the antivote that many party loyalists cast. As in, whoever has the best chance of defeating ones percieved enemy. Honestly, for the first time in my life I'm beginning to fall into this trap with the increased power the evangelical right has in the GOP. The religious liberty task force sessions is taking about, for example. I'm considering antivoting until this evangelical / GOP marriage is dissolved. I'm a progressive independent, with a tinge of fiscal conservatism. I'm trying to sway myself from falling into the antivote mindset, but with theocracy poised to take root and bear fruit, the stakes are getting high.
And a lot of especially libertarian and conservative Americans have a competition-is-everything driven worldview. Not only that but they have a twisted definition of competition. It's not enough to win, the other side must lose.
I think a lot of Americans wouldn't be too unhappy if the world burned to the ground as long as they were in charge of the ashes. We have a very shortsighted, selfish society at the moment -- dangerously so.
I think that this is all reinforced by a sort of self- approved system of selective cognitive dissonances designed to create a quasi- facade of plausible deniability .
An internalization of an almost but not quite subconscious unknowing of everything not wanted to know , much like what occurred in Lester Loborsky's findings that we can actually avoid seeing or acknowledging things without even consciously trying...pre- conscious discrimination.