One consequence of the Trump years is that it has knocked conservatives off a high horse that they had been riding since the Reagan era. Ideas matter, they said triumphantly, drawing a contrast with the supposedly transactional, spoils-based nature of Democratic politicians and the interest groups they relied on. Another favorite: denunciations of moral relativism, a way of justifying any kind of selfish behavior, when in fact right and wrong are absolutes.

For Trump supporters — who back the president even as he regularly shreds once-sacred conservative principles and constantly calibrates his own positions in pursuit of “deals” — ideas matter less than psychology. They like him because he somehow fits visceral notions of how purportedly strong leaders should act. As for moral relativism, it is the essence of Trump politics, as any questioning of his conduct is met with what-about-ism invoking the motives or alleged misdeeds of his opponents, or maintaining that he is simply acting with self-interest that any politician would and it is naïve to expect differently.

This brand of politics sometimes gets described as “tribalism.” That’s an explanation that doesn’t actually explain much, for three reasons…