Friday, March 27, 2009

Post 96b: Re-Posting of Article: What Makes People Vote Republican

We previously provided a link to this article, by Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. He conducts research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. We found this article to be particularly thought-provoking.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

“What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany's best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress.

“[Paragraph break added.] But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world. “

We are providing the link once again before delving into some other topics.


  1. "Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, political parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule." - Friedrich Nietzsche

  2. We've been thinking about the analysis provided by Haidt on almost a daily basis since we first came across this piece.

    George Will, on a Charlie Rose show some months back, said that the beauty of conservatism is "its purity." This "moral clarity" may be the same concept.

    Fascinating stuff to think about.

  3. I reject the bias inherent in the article. It reflects a pro-liberal bias. It also uses a "strawman" argument by defining "Republican" as anti-progress, anti-diversity, and rigid. It also implies that Republicans act (vote) out of fear and are simplistic.

    It also defines Democrats as "progressive", "liberal" and in favor of diversity.

    Anyone actually examining the parties will find that neither party lives up to these stereotypes.

    All this says to me is that an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia needs to counseling and educating.

  4. THIS ONE is going to be interesting. We plan to simply sit back and watch. Go for it....

  5. Douglas: It is interesting that you got NOTHING AT ALL out of this piece other than the fact that the professor needs "counseling and educating." Perhaps the piece is an example of how the manner in which someone approaches or presents a discussion can turn off the audience which he or she is trying to reach, and thus they never really get to the point of considering the validity of anything contained in the message. Is this an example of a "liberal Doberman?"

  6. Logistician,

    This is a very good question.

    I used to believe that those (myself included) who habitually voted Republican did so due to a deeply-held ideological belief in smaller, less-intrusive government.

    I now rather believe that it is best explained by undiagnosed brain damage or involuntary behavioral implants -- take your pick.

    An equally appropriate question would be: why do working people reflexively vote for Democrats when they know that they will be skewered right along with the wealthy? A good example of such a spread-the-misery-equally abomination is the soon-to-be-imposed "carbon tax".

    It's Third-Party time in America, folks.

    Jeff Dreibus

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  8. Log, I would have to say "yes" to the "liberal Doberman" depiction. Though that is simplistic. Jeff has a colorful way of expressing himself but he may be right about the Third Party being needed now. I would disagree about the "brain damage" and "implants", however.

    I may have touched upon this question, obliquely, in my current blog post. Why do people accept the lies told them and continue to vote the way they do? Some say a minority of voters control the country; the ones who are willing to change their votes from time to time. You have 25% to 35% on each side who will vote strictly by party, maybe 20% who lean toward one or the other and may change that preference according to circumstances at election time and another 20% who actually vote after much consideration. The odd thing is that I would say that 70% of the voters think they fall into that 20%.

    I wonder if Jeff knows that the Republican Party was once the "Third Party"?

  9. Douglas,

    "Why do people accept the lies told them and continue to vote the way they do?" That is the question which leads me to my conclusions regarding brain damage and implants . . .

    "I wonder if Jeff knows that the Republican Party was once the "Third Party"?" Yes, I do, and I also know that sometimes the established political parties switch roles.

    Back during the War for Southern Independence, the Democrat Party was the more conservative organ; the Republican Party then gradually assumed that role. Now it appears that the Republicans are once again moving back toward the left, leaving working- and middle-class conservatives out in the cold. Ironically, those "Republican" tendencies to which they still tightly cleave -- such as enabling the unconscionable greed which is threatening to destroy our nation -- are those which they should forsake.

    Hence my conclusion that the time is ripe for a strong third party to arise.

    Jeff Dreibus

  10. You make some good points, Jeff. The change for southern Republicans didn't happen until more recently than one might think. Up into the 70s, the Republican Party in the southern states was the more progressive (I will not say "liberal" here) of the two major parties. The most reactionary was the American Independent Party est. 1967) at that time. he Dixiecrats (Southern Democrats) were the most strongly conservative in the connotation of that term today.

    I am one who is not so afraid of that greed and I do not think it was the cause of the crash and economic downturn though it certainly did contribute to it. I would say the cause was the greed of politicians to provide access to teh "American Dream" of home ownership to those who simply could not afford it. This allowed the housing speculators to run amok, encouraged idiotic lending practices, and created the housing "bubble". There was an unwillingness by both sides to put any restrictions on these practices.

    The "time has been ripe for a strong third party" many, many times in my lifetime. It is unlikely to happen simply because, in my opinion, not enough people have the courage to support one.


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