How America could end up like Venezuela

Political Tribes book coverPolitical Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
by Amy Chua
Bloomsbury, £20

Donald Trump’s divisive statements over immigration have led many to conclude that American race relations have worsened since the election. However, Professor Amy Chua of Yale University argues that America isn’t the only country divided along ethnic lines. Best known for her controversial parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua thinks most experts have underestimated the importance of racial divisions in politics. Chua warns that unless something radical happens, America could end up going the same way as, say, Venezuela, with voters dividing along tribal lines to the detriment of the quality of leaders taking office.

This is a book that grabs your attention from the start. Yet Chua tends to overstate her case as, for example, when she argues that the Vietnam War was a conflict between ordinary Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese, rather than between communism and capitalism. She also overlooks the fact that, bad as American race relations are, they have improved drastically in recent decades. It’s worth remembering, too, that many of Trump’s supporters previously voted for Barack Obama. Nonetheless, Chua has a strong point when she argues that a politics based around tribal identity is not healthy for a country.