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What Makes People Vote Republican (Good Article From A Lib Alert)
Edge - Third Culture ^ | 9/09/2008 | Jonathan Haidt

Posted on 09/12/2008 11:38:39 AM PDT by goldstategop

WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN?

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. 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.

Diagnosis is a pleasure. It is a thrill to solve a mystery from scattered clues, and it is empowering to know what makes others tick. In the psychological community, where almost all of us are politically liberal, our diagnosis of conservatism gives us the additional pleasure of shared righteous anger. We can explain how Republicans exploit frames, phrases, and fears to trick Americans into supporting policies (such as the "war on terror" and repeal of the "death tax") that damage the national interest for partisan advantage.

But with pleasure comes seduction, and with righteous pleasure comes seduction wearing a halo. Our diagnosis explains away Republican successes while convincing us and our fellow liberals that we hold the moral high ground. Our diagnosis tells us that we have nothing to learn from other ideologies, and it blinds us to what I think is one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo, step back for a moment, and think about what morality really is.

I began to study morality and culture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. A then-prevalent definition of the moral domain, from the Berkeley psychologist Elliot Turiel, said that morality refers to "prescriptive judgments of justice, rights, and welfare pertaining to how people ought to relate to each other." But if morality is about how we treat each other, then why did so many ancient texts devote so much space to rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? There is no rational or health-related way to explain these laws. (Why are grasshoppers kosher but most locusts are not?) The emotion of disgust seemed to me like a more promising explanatory principle. The book of Leviticus makes a lot more sense when you think of ancient lawgivers first sorting everything into two categories: "disgusts me" (gay male sex, menstruation, pigs, swarming insects) and "disgusts me less" (gay female sex, urination, cows, grasshoppers ).

For my dissertation research, I made up stories about people who did things that were disgusting or disrespectful yet perfectly harmless. For example, what do you think about a woman who can't find any rags in her house so she cuts up an old American flag and uses the pieces to clean her toilet, in private? Or how about a family whose dog is killed by a car, so they dismember the body and cook it for dinner? I read these stories to 180 young adults and 180 eleven-year-old children, half from higher social classes and half from lower, in the USA and in Brazil. I found that most of the people I interviewed said that the actions in these stories were morally wrong, even when nobody was harmed. Only one group—college students at Penn—consistently exemplified Turiel's definition of morality and overrode their own feelings of disgust to say that harmless acts were not wrong. (A few even praised the efficiency of recycling the flag and the dog).

This research led me to two conclusions. First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. I often had to correct people when they said things like "it's wrong because… um…eating dog meat would make you sick" or "it's wrong to use the flag because… um… the rags might clog the toilet." These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume's dictum that reason is "the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them." This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

The second conclusion was that the moral domain varies across cultures. Turiel's description of morality as being about justice, rights, and human welfare worked perfectly for the college students I interviewed at Penn, but it simply did not capture the moral concerns of the less elite groups—the working-class people in both countries who were more likely to justify their judgments with talk about respect, duty, and family roles. ("Your dog is family, and you just don't eat family.") From this study I concluded that the anthropologist Richard Shweder was probably right in a 1987 critique of Turiel in which he claimed that the moral domain (not just specific rules) varies by culture. Drawing on Shweder's ideas, I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.

When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label "elitist." But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

After graduate school I moved to the University of Chicago to work with Shweder, and while there I got a fellowship to do research in India. In September 1993 I traveled to Bhubaneswar, an ancient temple town 200 miles southwest of Calcutta. I brought with me two incompatible identities. On the one hand, I was a 29 year old liberal atheist who had spent his politically conscious life despising Republican presidents, and I was charged up by the culture wars that intensified in the 1990s. On the other hand, I wanted to be like those tolerant anthropologists I had read so much about.

My first few weeks in Bhubaneswar were therefore filled with feelings of shock and confusion. I dined with men whose wives silently served us and then retreated to the kitchen. My hosts gave me a servant of my own and told me to stop thanking him when he served me. I watched people bathe in and cook with visibly polluted water that was held to be sacred. In short, I was immersed in a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not on mine.

It only took a few weeks for my shock to disappear, not because I was a natural anthropologist but because the normal human capacity for empathy kicked in. I liked these people who were hosting me, helping me, and teaching me. And once I liked them (remember that first principle of moral psychology) it was easy to take their perspective and to consider with an open mind the virtues they thought they were enacting. Rather than automatically rejecting the men as sexist oppressors and pitying the women, children, and servants as helpless victims, I was able to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society, and the members of each extended family (including its servants) are intensely interdependent. In this world, equality and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods, and guests, and fulfilling one's role-based duties, were more important. Looking at America from this vantage point, what I saw now seemed overly individualistic and self-focused. For example, when I boarded the plane to fly back to Chicago I heard a loud voice saying "Look, you tell him that this is the compartment over MY seat, and I have a RIGHT to use it."

Back in the United States the culture war was going strong, but I had lost my righteous passion. I could never have empathized with the Christian Right directly, but once I had stood outside of my home morality, once I had tried on the moral lenses of my Indian friends and interview subjects, I was able to think about conservative ideas with a newfound clinical detachment. They want more prayer and spanking in schools, and less sex education and access to abortion? I didn't think those steps would reduce AIDS and teen pregnancy, but I could see why the religious right wanted to "thicken up" the moral climate of schools and discourage the view that children should be as free as possible to act on their desires. Conservatives think that welfare programs and feminism increase rates of single motherhood and weaken the traditional social structures that compel men to support their own children? Hmm, that may be true, even if there are also many good effects of liberating women from dependence on men. I had escaped from my prior partisan mindset (reject first, ask rhetorical questions later), and began to think about liberal and conservative policies as manifestations of deeply conflicting but equally heartfelt visions of the good society.

On Turiel's definition of morality ("justice, rights, and welfare"), Christian and Hindu communities don't look good. They restrict people's rights (especially sexual rights), encourage hierarchy and conformity to gender roles, and make people spend extraordinary amounts of time in prayer and ritual practices that seem to have nothing to do with "real" morality. But isn't it unfair to impose on all cultures a definition of morality drawn from the European Enlightenment tradition? Might we do better with an approach that defines moral systems by what they do rather than by what they value?

Here's my alternative definition: morality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness, two of which are most relevant for understanding what Democrats don't understand about morality.

First, imagine society as a social contract invented for our mutual benefit. All individuals are equal, and all should be left as free as possible to move, develop talents, and form relationships as they please. The patron saint of a contractual society is John Stuart Mill, who wrote (in On Liberty) that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Mill's vision appeals to many liberals and libertarians; a Millian society at its best would be a peaceful, open, and creative place where diverse individuals respect each other's rights and band together voluntarily (as in Obama's calls for "unity") to help those in need or to change the laws for the common good.

Psychologists have done extensive research on the moral mechanisms that are presupposed in a Millian society, and there are two that appear to be partly innate. First, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to suffering and harm, particularly violent harm, and so nearly all cultures have norms or laws to protect individuals and to encourage care for the most vulnerable. Second, people in all cultures are emotionally responsive to issues of fairness and reciprocity, which often expand into notions of rights and justice. Philosophical efforts to justify liberal democracies and egalitarian social contracts invariably rely heavily on intuitions about fairness and reciprocity.

But now imagine society not as an agreement among individuals but as something that emerged organically over time as people found ways of living together, binding themselves to each other, suppressing each other's selfishness, and punishing the deviants and free-riders who eternally threaten to undermine cooperative groups. The basic social unit is not the individual, it is the hierarchically structured family, which serves as a model for other institutions. Individuals in such societies are born into strong and constraining relationships that profoundly limit their autonomy. The patron saint of this more binding moral system is the sociologist Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness), and wrote, in 1897, that "Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him." A Durkheimian society at its best would be a stable network composed of many nested and overlapping groups that socialize, reshape, and care for individuals who, if left to their own devices, would pursue shallow, carnal, and selfish pleasures. A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.

A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble). These three systems support moralities that bind people into intensely interdependent groups that work together to reach common goals. Such moralities make it easier for individuals to forget themselves and coalesce temporarily into hives, a process that is thrilling, as anyone who has ever "lost" him or herself in a choir, protest march, or religious ritual can attest.

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all five foundations more or less equally. (You can test yourself at www.YourMorals.org.) We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.

Religion and political leadership are so intertwined across eras and cultures because they are about the same thing: performing the miracle of converting unrelated individuals into a group. Durkheim long ago said that God is really society projected up into the heavens, a collective delusion that enables collectives to exist, suppress selfishness, and endure. The three Durkheimian foundations (ingroup, authority, and purity) play a crucial role in most religions. When they are banished entirely from political life, what remains is a nation of individuals striving to maximize utility while respecting the rules. What remains is a cold but fair social contract, which can easily degenerate into a nation of shoppers.

The Democrats must find a way to close the sacredness gap that goes beyond occasional and strategic uses of the words "God" and "faith." But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns. God is useful but not necessary. The Democrats could close much of the gap if they simply learned to see society not just as a collection of individuals—each with a panoply of rights--but as an entity in itself, an entity that needs some tending and caring. Our national motto is e pluribus unum ("from many, one"). Whenever Democrats support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum. They widen the sacredness gap.

A useful heuristic would be to think about each issue, and about the Party itself, from the perspective of the three Durkheimian foundations. Might the Democrats expand their moral range without betraying their principles? Might they even find ways to improve their policies by incorporating and publicly praising some conservative insights?

The ingroup/loyalty foundation supports virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice that can lead to dangerous nationalism, but in moderate doses a sense that "we are all one" is a recipe for high social capital and civic well-being. A recent study by Robert Putnam (titled E Pluribus Unum) found that ethnic diversity increases anomie and social isolation by decreasing people's sense of belonging to a shared community. Democrats should think carefully, therefore, about why they celebrate diversity. If the purpose of diversity programs is to fight racism and discrimination (worthy goals based on fairness concerns), then these goals might be better served by encouraging assimilation and a sense of shared identity.

The purity/sanctity foundation is used heavily by the Christian right to condemn hedonism and sexual "deviance," but it can also be harnessed for progressive causes. Sanctity does not have to come from God; the psychology of this system is about overcoming our lower, grasping, carnal selves in order to live in a way that is higher, nobler, and more spiritual. Many liberals criticize the crassness and ugliness that our unrestrained free-market society has created. There is a long tradition of liberal anti-materialism often linked to a reverence for nature. Environmental and animal welfare issues are easily promoted using the language of harm/care, but such appeals might be more effective when supplemented with hints of purity/sanctity.

The authority/respect foundation will be the hardest for Democrats to use. But even as liberal bumper stickers urge us to "question authority" and assert that "dissent is patriotic," Democrats can ask what needs this foundation serves, and then look for other ways to meet them. The authority foundation is all about maintaining social order, so any candidate seen to be "soft on crime" has disqualified himself, for many Americans, from being entrusted with the ultimate authority. Democrats would do well to read Durkheim and think about the quasi-religious importance of the criminal justice system. The miracle of turning individuals into groups can only be performed by groups that impose costs on cheaters and slackers. You can do this the authoritarian way (with strict rules and harsh penalties) or you can do it using the fairness/reciprocity foundation by stressing personal responsibility and the beneficence of the nation towards those who "work hard and play by the rules." But if you don't do it at all—if you seem to tolerate or enable cheaters and slackers -- then you are committing a kind of sacrilege.

If Democrats want to understand what makes people vote Republican, they must first understand the full spectrum of American moral concerns. They should then consider whether they can use more of that spectrum themselves. The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice, but social justice is about getting fair relationships among the parts of the nation. This often divisive struggle among the parts must be balanced by a clear and oft-repeated commitment to guarding the precious coherence of the whole. America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom.

Unity is not the great need of the hour, it is the eternal struggle of our immigrant nation. The three Durkheimian foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle. Until Democrats understand this point, they will be vulnerable to the seductive but false belief that Americans vote for Republicans primarily because they have been duped into doing so.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: jonathanhaidt; polanthropology; republicanvote; theedge
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A fascinating discussion by a lib of why people vote Republican. He says its about values and not about material concerns. And to use a Marxist trope, its not "false consciousness" that dupes Americans into voting Republican. Don't be put off by the initial air of liberal elite snobbery since it presents some good points. The follow up discussion (not linked here) is also quite good.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

1 posted on 09/12/2008 11:38:40 AM PDT by goldstategop
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To: goldstategop

I have not read this yet, but look forward to. Thanks for the post!


2 posted on 09/12/2008 11:41:31 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: goldstategop
The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice

ha ha ha ha ha ha ... stop it, you're killin' me.

Lose their souls .... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

3 posted on 09/12/2008 11:47:00 AM PDT by tx_eggman (Privatizing profits and socializing losses is no way to run an economy)
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.

"I had escaped from my prior partisan mindset (reject first, ask rhetorical questions later), and began to think..."

And began to understand.

4 posted on 09/12/2008 11:50:16 AM PDT by polymuser (Taxpayers voting for Obama are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.)
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To: goldstategop

I think this twit has never known love.


5 posted on 09/12/2008 11:52:17 AM PDT by Tribune7 (How is inflicting pain and death on an innocent, helpless human being for profit, moral?)
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To: goldstategop
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.

Yes, conservatism and the difference between evil and good are simple, straight forward concepts. Liberals are always looking to find the elusive golden thread that links the universe together. Conservatives do what is right for America; Liberals do what they perceive to be right for the world. Too bad it's programmed in their genes.

6 posted on 09/12/2008 11:52:35 AM PDT by mlocher (america is a sovereign state)
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To: goldstategop
The Democrats must find a way to close the sacredness gap that goes beyond occasional and strategic uses of the words "God" and "faith." But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns.

Really? Then how come in Christianity the central tenet is personal salvation by a personal relationship with God? It seems to me that this guy is seriously suggesting that people vote republican based on their desire to enhance 'group rights'. This guy's comparison of liberals and libertarians is really a laugh too. Liberals have more in common with the Italian fascist party than they do libertarians.

I don't see how a supposedly educated individual could say such crap with a straight face. Liberals are statists, conservatives are individualists. It's not the other way around.
7 posted on 09/12/2008 11:53:33 AM PDT by JamesP81 (George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a suggestion)
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To: goldstategop

bump


8 posted on 09/12/2008 11:53:50 AM PDT by mpackard (Read my Lip-Stick)
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To: goldstategop
Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason...

Great! Now I need a new keyboard!

Memo to self - don't drink coffeee while reading liberal analysis of conservatism.

9 posted on 09/12/2008 11:54:02 AM PDT by JaguarXKE
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To: goldstategop
Excellent article. Thanks for posting. It clarifies a lot of things that I've been thinking about for a long time.

Here's something that jumped out at me:

Whenever Democrats support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum

It is not a conincidence that Al Gore once mistakenly referred to the Latin phrase as meaning "Out of one, we are many."

10 posted on 09/12/2008 11:55:15 AM PDT by curiosity
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To: tx_eggman
Social justice properly understood, is valuing the nation and treating every one equally. It does not mean as many liberals would have it, advantaging certain groups above others, epitomized in the pursuit of identity and diversity politics. Or as Haidt acknowledges:

"America lacks the long history, small size, ethnic homogeneity, and soccer mania that holds many other nations together, so our flag, our founding fathers, our military, and our common language take on a moral importance that many liberals find hard to fathom."

No wonder liberal policies are destructive of the national spirit that holds America together. He does get it but most liberals don't. That's why America identifies with the Republican Party.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

11 posted on 09/12/2008 11:55:19 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop
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?

I call BS. Too many false basic assumptions.

12 posted on 09/12/2008 11:55:55 AM PDT by tcostell (MOLON LABE - http://freenj.blogspot.com - RadioFree NJ)
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To: JaguarXKE
The first paragraph is intended to be sarcastic. Read the whole thing.
13 posted on 09/12/2008 11:56:06 AM PDT by curiosity
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To: All

Well, the answer is right in the first paragraph in the premise that people are better off economically with Democrat policies.

Obviously, most people’s experience tells them that COMPANIES are better providers of INCOME than government.


14 posted on 09/12/2008 11:56:10 AM PDT by Madeleine Ward
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To: goldstategop
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?

Wrong right out of the gate.

15 posted on 09/12/2008 11:56:19 AM PDT by MarineBrat (My wife and I took an AIDS vaccination that the Church offers.)
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To: MarineBrat
Its NOT about economics! To this day, liberals still don't understand why Americans are conservative by tradition and instinct. Its the values, stupid!

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

16 posted on 09/12/2008 11:58:58 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

Interesting article, but I didn’t think liberals would all into Mills. My favorite quote of his is-
“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
That seems to reflect our philosophy.


17 posted on 09/12/2008 11:58:58 AM PDT by nclaurel (I think therefore I vote Republican.)
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To: goldstategop

Only a liberal needs 30 paragraphs to come to the understanding that intelligence trumps emotionalism.


18 posted on 09/12/2008 12:02:32 PM PDT by xcamel (Conservatives start smart, and get rich, liberals start rich, and get stupid.)
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To: goldstategop
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?

My economic interests are not better served by the Democrats. You cannot tax your way to prosperity. You cannot make this a better country by taking from those who are productive and redistributing it to those who aren't. But more than that, the Democrats are against everything I stand for. I believe in the Second Amendment, they want to disarm me. I believe in letting babies live, but I also believe in capital punishment while the Democrats get it wrong on both counts. I believe in a strong military, the Democrats would gut it. I believe in private medicine, the Democrats would nationalize it. I believe in minimal government, the Democrats want to control everything. There is very little the Democrats and I agree on, especially when they're actually being honest about what they want for America.

19 posted on 09/12/2008 12:04:12 PM PDT by AlaskaErik (I served and protected my country for 31 years. Democrats spent that time trying to destroy it.)
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To: goldstategop
Thank you for posting.

This takes some wading through, but it's worth it. And some of the observations are quite profound in their articulation.

A point worth musing on:

Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.

[snip]

The Democrats must find a way to close the sacredness gap that goes beyond occasional and strategic uses of the words "God" and "faith." But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns. God is useful but not necessary. The Democrats could close much of the gap if they simply learned to see society not just as a collection of individuals—each with a panoply of rights--but as an entity in itself, an entity that needs some tending and caring. Our national motto is e pluribus unum ("from many, one"). Whenever Democrats support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum. They widen the sacredness gap.

*** end excerpt ***

The thing is, Democrats CANNOT close the sacredness gap. Their world view, which essentially boils down to moral nihlism, will never be consistent with an appropriate reverence for our society and nation as an entity that is larger than self and which should be served as such.

20 posted on 09/12/2008 12:05:45 PM PDT by fightinJAG (Rush was right when he said: "You NEVER win by losing.")
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To: goldstategop
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.

Well actually, SOME well-educated (East-coast multi-degreed) persons believe that our economic interest is best served by opportunity (and concomitant risk) - the ordered meritocracy rather than hierarchy. We thrive on the uncertainty of trying. We wither under a guaranteed, but lower, reward schedule. In otgher words, our economic interest is freedom.

The challenge for the liberal mind is evident in this piece - to not be overly reliant on critical thinking and its inevitable proof of the flawed liberal hypothesis.

21 posted on 09/12/2008 12:08:35 PM PDT by 1stMarylandRegiment (Conserve Liberty)
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To: fightinJAG
Agreed. If they grasp this, we would be in trouble but since they never look at things the way we do, they will keep on losing elections.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

22 posted on 09/12/2008 12:08:44 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

I think this thread on Bidens charity contributions helps illustrate some of the points this author makes perfectly.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2081006/posts


23 posted on 09/12/2008 12:09:47 PM PDT by saganite (Obama is a political STD)
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To: Tribune7
I think this twit has never known love.

You mean, like, with, <gasp!> another PERSON?

You could be right.

I see some progress in this article, but the author clings to his myopic worldview to the end. Durkheim is not the key to understanding the soul of conservatism, and I much misdoubt that other liberals accept his watery definition of "social justice".

He's got a ways to go yet.

24 posted on 09/12/2008 12:10:31 PM PDT by thulldud (All your rumor are mong to us.)
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To: goldstategop

A truly interesting perspective. We get them, but I doubt they will ever get us...


25 posted on 09/12/2008 12:13:57 PM PDT by Vor Lady (Proud to support Sarah Palin for Vice President!)
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To: MarineBrat; goldstategop
......their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies?

What the author means to say is that the Democrats are perceived by their supporters to offer a much better chance of them sharing in the loot from the common coffers, and above all from the coffers of those better off than themselves.

The fact that is only true for those on welfare, and then not very often, seems lost on the author. More often than not, a Democrat administration of anything just means that more people will be entitled to share in an ever diminishing source of benefits. "Means Testing," is indeed a great way to pay for votes.

For the Democrat thinking classes, however, the rewards of power are immense, as a look at your local school administration will attest.

IMHO, this also makes the Republican efforts to outspend the Democrats in a vote-buying attempt even more pathetic.

26 posted on 09/12/2008 12:22:31 PM PDT by Kenny Bunk (Drill. Double Refining Capacity. Make METHANOL from Coal, NG, Nuclear ..let's roll.)
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To: goldstategop
The libs' desire for social justice is all fine and dandy.

But why does it always require government intervention and picking someone else's pocket to pay for their moral urges?

I always get a kick out of libs decrying Christians imposing their moral values on others. When's the last time a preacher used IRS thugs to fill the church coffers?

Why do San Francisco libs need to work through the Democratic party and the federal tax code so checks can be sent to Washington, and then sent back to be disbursed to the poor of San Francisco? Wouldn't a little private organizing be more effective and more rewarding to these people?

Similarly why do the libs need a government dictum to make them stop using fossil fuels? Just stop! Why are the streets of San Francisco full of cars?

Apologies for the tangential rant. I feel better now.

27 posted on 09/12/2008 12:22:31 PM PDT by Monti Cello
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To: thulldud
You mean, like, with, another PERSON?

LOL. Good point.

28 posted on 09/12/2008 12:27:34 PM PDT by Tribune7 (How is inflicting pain and death on an innocent, helpless human being for profit, moral?)
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To: xcamel

He’s confirmed several things I already knew about leftists -

no respect for authority or family (honor for parents & ancestors)
no respect for private property (coveting, theft)
base carnality (adultery)
no respect for human life (murder)

leftists respect no freedoms except those that allow them to rub their jubblies wherever they please without consequence.


29 posted on 09/12/2008 12:27:38 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: goldstategop

A good article, but I would say that conseervative political orientation goes beyond moral concerns. Despite whatever “help” the government might provide, a large number of people simply do not want government intrusion in their private lives. And they wisely perceive welfare as a loan, a debt that can never be repaid, rather than the commission of charity.

The author correctly points out that many of the things our culture regards as “wrong” are in fact mere custom (not eating dog meat, for example). Every culture has customs, and the fact that an act is outside of custom (though not immoral) does not mean that it is any less repugnant to that culture.

But the welfare state is hardly an instrument of unalloyed social good, and there is an element of immorality (and not simply transgression of custom) in a provider state. To make the system work, wealth must be taken away from those who produced it, and given to those who did not (usually the recipients are in some politically favored group). Hayek showed that private human action more efficiently distributes capital than central planning. So under a welfare state, everyone is less well off so that less productive people are better off. The producers of wealth have their assets expropriated for uplift programs that are rarely,if ever, exposed to rational scrutiny.

It is difficult to justify the welfare state under either a consequentialist or a utilitarian moral system. So leftists resort to a Rawlesian system of natural rights. Of course, Rawles had to ignore property rights as a human right to make his system work. History shows us that human rights are not long tolerated by the state when there are not strong property rights.

Further, to quote the author, “If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. “ This is also true of those on the left. Do government programs actually help their intended targets? If so, are the benefits received greater than the social costs? Let’s use the construction of large-scale housing projects in the 50s and 60s under the aegis of the FHA as an example. Nearly two trillion dollars were spent on projects such as Cabrini Green and Stateway Gardens, and on Section 8 vouchers, for which we have little to show today except empty lots where the buildings stood, and a black underclass.

Leftists usually ignore unintended consequences, while avoidance of unintended consequences is a central feature of conservative and libertarian political philosophy. Perhaps working class people accept the existence of unintended consequences, and align themselves with the more conservative of the two parties as a result? Leftists really are more “intellectual” than those on the right, in the sense that when ideas clash with reality, leftists cling to their theories, and try to force the world to conform to them.


30 posted on 09/12/2008 12:31:56 PM PDT by oblomov
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To: goldstategop

It’s a good read if your are interested in pyschology but as an analysis of Americans voting Republican it misses a few things.

The supposedly sophisticated thinking of the Democrats only applies to about a tiny, intellectual fraction of them. I seriously doubt that the black voter which composes 20% of the party seriously cares about or utilizes any of the things noted in this article. Nor the 15% of Hispanics. Nor the 20-30% of the masses that can only think about what the media tells them to think about.

Most of the democratic party votes democratic because they are shortsighted and want a free buck today rather than 10 dollars tomorrow. Just like Europe fell into a socialist malaise, these people think there’s a thing as a free lunch.

Values are but a part of the equation. Conservatives are winners. They are pro-active, think deeply about issues, and realize that success is predicated upon a certain set of values and living those values. Redistribution of wealth is outside the moral realm of government, the process must remain fair, the results are irrelevant given process.

Its that simple. Democrats lose because they are the party of convenience and the party of stupid.


31 posted on 09/12/2008 12:34:06 PM PDT by DiogenesLaertius (Lets Act like True Conservatives Here)
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To: goldstategop

Thanks, interesting. Will require some thought.


32 posted on 09/12/2008 12:35:57 PM PDT by FFranco
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To: tx_eggman

whenever you see the word “justice” in the context of liberal democRATS...substitute “revenge” and that spells out their entire mentality.

social justice = social revenge

economic justice = economic revenge.


33 posted on 09/12/2008 12:38:45 PM PDT by Ouderkirk (I will not vote for Obama not because he is black, but because he is RED)
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To: goldstategop

bump


34 posted on 09/12/2008 12:42:11 PM PDT by dangerdoc (dangerdoc (not actually dangerous any more))
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To: goldstategop

Even if they grasp it, it’s impossible for them *as a party* to take a more benign view of religion (much less a somewhat positive view).

It is impossible for them *as a party* to demonstrate their understanding of and affinity for the nation’s symbols-—the flag, for example.

It is impossible for them *as a party* to accept that the use of military force is not always evil.

It is impossible for them *as a party* to give up their hyper-individualism and their inclination to either (1) deny the fact of personal responsibility, or (2) outsource one’s personal responsibility to one’s fellow man to the government.


35 posted on 09/12/2008 12:42:53 PM PDT by fightinJAG (Rush was right when he said: "You NEVER win by losing.")
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To: goldstategop
If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so.

Obviously, this author is one of them.
36 posted on 09/12/2008 12:46:25 PM PDT by snowrip (Liberal? YOU ARE A SOCIALIST WITH NO RATIONAL ARGUMENT.)
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To: goldstategop

fantastic article, thank you for posting it.


37 posted on 09/12/2008 12:49:30 PM PDT by sassbox
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To: tx_eggman
The Democrats would lose their souls if they ever abandoned their commitment to social justice

See tagline

38 posted on 09/12/2008 12:53:41 PM PDT by dan1123 (If you want to find a person's true religion, ask them what makes them a "good person".)
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To: JamesP81
But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns.

Really? Then how come in Christianity the central tenet is personal salvation by a personal relationship with God?

Actually the notion of Christianity as a personal relationship with God is relatively recent. Historically Christianity has been viewed by Christians and by non-Christians as a collective entity. Remember, not every collective institution is a statist one. Families are collective institutions, for example. I think the author's point is that Democrats dismiss all these collective social institutions (except for the government) and they are foolish to do so, given the way humans are hard-wired.

39 posted on 09/12/2008 1:03:51 PM PDT by sassbox
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To: goldstategop
You ought to try the link he provided
http://yourmorals.org
Just as this article, it has a slight appearance of slant, but interesting questions nevertheless...
and BTW, I consistently score somewhat more conservative than the average...
:)
Yeah, I'm bragging about that too!
40 posted on 09/12/2008 1:03:59 PM PDT by 45semi (Man has only those rights he can defend...)
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To: goldstategop

“...rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? There is no rational or health-related way to explain these laws.”

Right. I suppose trichinosis (from pork) and syphilis just kinda drop out of thin air on a person’s head. And the menstrual flow contains a lot of blood, which can pass on disease.

Sorry, there may be a little substance later on, but flat-out ignorant idiotic statements such as this near the beginning of a huge stream of text tend to make me stop reading. Liberal verbosity is not my idea of a good read.


41 posted on 09/12/2008 1:04:01 PM PDT by HeadOn (Don't like His rules? Your argument is not with me, it's with HIM.)
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To: goldstategop

</shakes head>20+ paragraphs of liberal psychologist babble and they still miss the point. This is a perfect example of why I stopped trying to reason with liberals a long time ago.


42 posted on 09/12/2008 1:06:45 PM PDT by LoneStarGI (Vegetarian: Old Indian word for "BAD HUNTER.")
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To: oblomov

——Leftists really are more “intellectual” than those on the right, in the sense that when ideas clash with reality, leftists cling to their theories, and try to force the world to conform to them.——

Thus the phrase “communism has never worked because it has never been applied completely”


43 posted on 09/12/2008 1:14:41 PM PDT by ResponseAbility (Government tends to never fix the problems it creates in the first place)
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To: tcostell
I call BS. Too many false basic assumptions.

He actually agrees with you. Read beyond the first paragraph. The part you read is merely a summary of pop-psychoanalysis of the GOP so popular among the left today, which he spends the rest of the article arguing against.

I'm amazed how many people on this site never read beyond the first few sentences of an article.

44 posted on 09/12/2008 1:26:49 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: goldstategop

“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?”

Shows such utter ingorance in the first paragraph, therefore I reject the article for now, but am intrigued and may come back to read it later when I have more time.

Working-class and rural Americans will vote for pro-business Republicans because their economic interests ARE best served by those capitalist dynamics and entities that actually create real jobs, stimulate the economy, and afford them opportunities to earn a decent living—or even get rich—by their merit and earnest labor, as opposed to the Democrat dynamics of big government dependency, regulation, red-tape bureaucracy, inefficiency, coercion, forced replacement of the family with the state, socialistic torpor, and so on.


45 posted on 09/12/2008 1:30:40 PM PDT by VigilantAmerican (We will not waver, we will not tire; we will not falter, we will not fail)
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To: sassbox
Actually the notion of Christianity as a personal relationship with God is relatively recent.

Yup. That notion is unique to American Protestantism and, to a degree, post-Vatican 2 American Catholicism.

It's what prompts Alan Bloom to declare that American Christians are really closet Gnostics. I think he's right, to an extent.

46 posted on 09/12/2008 1:32:52 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: VigilantAmerican
Shows such utter ingorance in the first paragraph

That's why it's usually a good idea to read an article beyond the first paragraph. If you had, you'd realize that the purpose of the first paragraph is to lay out a popular liberal view that the author later argues against.

47 posted on 09/12/2008 1:34:28 PM PDT by curiosity
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To: goldstategop

But if morality is about how we treat each other, then why did so many ancient texts devote so much space to rules about menstruation, who can eat what, and who can have sex with whom? There is no rational or health-related way to explain these laws.

No rational or health related? How about eating undercooked pork, something which may have happened in days of old.
A little science: Even free of trichina, raw pork is not always safe to eat raw; it contains other hazards. The infectious hazards include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica.

Sex with whom? Matt Foreman, outgoing executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, acknowledged what the medical community has known for decades: The homosexual lifestyle is extremely high risk and often leads to disease and even death.

Do these Socialist just have to make things up or don’t they know any history.


48 posted on 09/12/2008 1:39:10 PM PDT by DakoKid
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To: goldstategop

Interesting.


49 posted on 09/12/2008 1:43:17 PM PDT by pepperdog (The world has gone crazy.)
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To: goldstategop

Interesting.


50 posted on 09/12/2008 1:44:53 PM PDT by pepperdog (The world has gone crazy.)
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