Over the past several decades, a series of social and political causes—perhaps most prominently, abortion and same-sex marriage—have polarized the American people. For many adherents of these causes, passionate political involvement now fills the place more traditionally occupied by religious belief. Virtually every cause, led by its militant true believers and enlisted activists, has exploited the tactics of identity politics, vilifying the opposition while proclaiming its aggrieved righteousness. Identity politics draws people in by appealing to fairness, inducing guilt, promoting fear, demonizing opponents, and attaching the cause to a political affiliation.
Not all people are equally vulnerable to these tactics. As a psychiatrist, I firmly believe that people’s susceptibility to identity politics, moral relativism, and situational ethics is determined, at least in part, by certain key developmental life experiences—both conscious and unconscious.