Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Post No. 147a: 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. What people think certain political parties represent may be erroneous. Just because a party claims to be "for the little guy" does not mean its policies are really advantageous to "the little guy." In fact, they may be detrimental. A party that is seemingly defined to be "pro-Big Business" may actually be better for "the little guy." It is all a matter of perspective. If I am an entrepreneur (or hope to be) then I may, even though I am blue collar, be more supportive of Republican policies of lower taxes, less red tape, and smaller government. However, if I am not hopeful of ever getting rich, starting my own business, or moving up in status, I may find big government ideology to be more what I want.

    Claiming the "high moral ground" makes you susceptible to attack whenever one person in the party has a moral lapse. There are problems in claiming the "low moral ground" (secularism and liberal social ideology) leaves you open to charges of being indifferent to (or in conflict with)religious and moral values.

    I am often reminded of Roger, a co-worker in Jacksonville, who held strong conservative views on social issues (anti-abortion, pro-prayer in schools, anti-drug, pro-family) yet remained a steadfast Democratic registrant. Why? Because, as an African-American, he felt a certain peer pressure to do so.

    I have often wondered why Black Americans have not abandoned a party which has failed to deliver on promises for over 50 years.

    What I have found, over my many years, is that what is promised is seldom delivered. That, in fact, promises are made to lure the voter in and have nothing to do with the party's intent.

    I think that is why you are seeing the turmoil in each of the major parties. People are beginning to wake up to the idea that political parties serve no one but themselves. It is up to the "rank and file" of each party to determine the party's core values and push the party in that direction.

    To be honest, I was turned of by what I saw as an "attitude" by the author that was evident in the title. That theme is "Liberalism good, conservatism bad". Reading further, it seemed that the author was revealing an epiphany that conservatives aren't "bad" people after all; that they had different, but valid, perspectives. I flashed on Shirley Sherrod's 15 minutes of fame...

    Still, a feeling of condescension remained in the words and throughout the piece. Was he now smugly superior because he could view things in a more objective manner than he had in the past?

  2. Douglas, you wrote:

    "What people think what certain political parties represent may be erroneous?"

    WE pose this question to you: Are there ANY people who think what certain political parties represent who may be CORRECT? If so, how many or what percentage of the population, and who are they?

    Are you suggesting that citizen voters who join or are associated with a particular political party are erroneous about what they think THEIR party represents? Or only the other parties of which they are not members?

    If people are erroneous about their own particular party, should they withdraw from their party and join another? What should they do?

    Is there a possibility, albeit remote, that what a particular party represents is in the eye and mind and heart of the beholder or the party member? If so, is anyone standing on the outside of a particular party "capable" of "analyzing" it better than those in it? Is any human ever capable of objectively analyzing anything in the non-physical world?

  3. Interesting questions, Inspector, as always. I think people can easily be mistaken not only about their own party's "platform" but about all others. It seems to me that a lot of people become Republicans and Democrats because their parents were Republican and Democrat. I think a lot of them also join a party because their friends register in that party. I think it is a minority of either major party that join because they (a) fully understand and (b) fully agree with what the party actually stands for.

    We tend to see a party's philosophy in simplistic terms. Democrats are the party of the working class, Republicans are the party of business and Fat Cats. Yet, the richest members of Congress (House and Senate) appear to be Democrats. And I have known a large number of people who were working class but also solid Republicans (my parents come to mind). Republicans are supposed to also be in favor of smaller government but they seem to grow government just little slower than Democrats. I have been both registered Democrat and registered Republican. I have found that neither party fully meets my political philosophy. The one that comes closest is the Libertarian Party but the differences I have with them are too strong to ignore.

    Is there a possibility, albeit remote, that what a particular party represents is in the eye and mind and heart of the beholder or the party member?

    I think that isn't remote at all. I think that is the norm.

    If people disagree with the direction their party is taking, they should decide if the direction is incompatible with their own philosophy or merely a minor disagreement. They should decide if they can help change the direction or if they wish to vote with their feet. The answers to your questions are ones each voter needs to consider, don't you think?

    You do realize that neither party has a majority of voters, don't you? That the ones who end up deciding elections are the un-affiliated voters, the so called "independents."

    As an addendum, American politics are tame compared to most other countries. Party affiliation in some countries could destroy you or elevate you depending upon who wins an election. A friend of mine ended up in this country because his parents had to leave because the party his father backed failed to retain power. His father lost his business and his future looked bleak. So he moved them to Los Angeles.

    I don't believe that happens in this country and I hope it never comes to that.

  4. You mentioned a lot of salient issues in your comment Douglas, and we'll only address a couple of them.

    We suspect that you are correct about many party members not fully appreciating or buying into, or even knowing for that matter, their party's platform, at least as expressed just prior to party conventions.

    You also mentioned that you thought that many people simply followed the same political party of which their parents were members. You apparently figured that out without having to conduct an extensive study, resulting in a book. During the early 1970s, many of us took political science courses and used a book by Dye and Ziegler which arrived at the very same conclusion.

    The parties appear to be almost self-executing juggernauts, and the regular folks in society apparently have little influence over party policy and direction. When we first typed the word "juggernaut" above, we weren't quite sure whether it was the most appropriate word. Interestingly, upon looking it up in the dictionary, we determined that it might be.

    We recall seeing a book discussion on C-Span 2 Book TV last year, where the authors essentially said that roughly 10% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans controlled everything with respect to politics in this country, and they were essentially the "elite" in each party.

    We once again raise the issue: Are the "Fat Cats" of each party laughing all the way to the bank, while the remaining 80% of us are whining?


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