Why Republicans?

The Edge Foundation features deep and scholarly articles by thinkers on the forefront of knowledge in a variety of fields. Here’s the first paragraph of a feature article for 9.9.08 by Jonathan Haidt, 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.

Hey, doesn’t that about sum it up?

Well, actually it doesn’t! Mr. Haidt goes on to qualify the above quite extensively as he digs deeper into the question. Well worth reading! And his article is followed by comments and critiques from ten other people. If you’ve got the time, this is all very interesting.

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  1. Missy’s avatar

    I remember reading a study like this some time ago. The explanation does play into my intuitive sense of some conservative people I know. It probably worked for cave men. Come to think of it, most conservatives seem a bit cave man-ish.
    Geez, now those Geico cave men are going to come after me, aren’t they?

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Hey, right on, Missy. Yes, they have a tendency that way. (Eye of) Newt Gingrich freaked me out during his recent interview by Jon Stewart who had a tough time with him which is unusual for Jon Stuart. He’d make a good Geico cave man for sure, and pray he doesn’t come after you or me.

    I don’t know if you read the article but it’s very interesting as well as the responses. Took me quite a while to read it.

  3. Border Explorer’s avatar

    Marde, my husband recently paged through some books by right wing authors just trying to figure out how they see things. This article may have some help for us. I’ll read it tomorrow when I’ve got more brain power.

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Thanks, BE. Yes, it’s a pretty deep article after that encouraging first paragraph. There are some thoughtful replies too. Hey, it’s hard to maintain one’s brain power in this mad mad world!


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