I agree with this Salon article that it is counterproductive to write off the Tea Party as irrational. It is much more productive to work harder to understand the Tea Party’s thought process. Here’s an excerpt:
While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them. They are not ignoramuses, any more than Jacksonian, Confederate and Dixiecrat elites were idiots. They know what they want and they have a plan to get it—which may be more than can be said for their opponents.
In Jonathan Haidt’s most recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, he makes a compelling argument that all of our become blinded when we get caught upon in tribal politics. His suggestion is that we need to work hard to unplug from the moral matrix in order to better understand the “other.” It’s a tall order in these times of great hostility and crisis, but I believe that Haidt is correct, that it is the only way out of this mess.
This, from Blue Street Journal:
Social Psychologist Geoffrey Cohen found that Democrats will typically support a policy proposal that severely restricts entitlements (something typically favored by Republicans) if they think it was proposed by members of their own party. Additionally, Republicans will typically support an extremely generous entitlement program if they think it was proposed by Republicans. In contrast, if a Democrat or Republican thinks that a policy was proposed by the opposing party, they will tend to reject it no matter what it says. This was tested in a lab study where participants were asked to read the policies for themselves. Democrats were led to believe that the policy they were reading was proposed by a Democrat, even though it was actually proposed by a Republican. Republicans were placed in the same scenario, but with a Democratic policy they believed was proposed by a Republican. In both situations, the participants tended to agree with the policy they believed was affiliated with their own party and rejected the policy they believed was affiliated with the opposing party. A second group of Democrats and Republicans rejected the very same ideas that the first groups accepted when they believed that they were proposed by members of the opposing party. This demonstrates that people tend to accept political ideas based on party affiliation rather than the actual content of the ideas.
Recently, I finished reading Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollwood, & the Prison of Belief, about Scientology. It’s a lucid history and examination of the movement. [More . . . ]
PLOS offers another bit of evidence that political preferences might have their genesis at low-level cognitive processes:
Liberals and conservatives engage different cognitive processes when they think about risk, and they support recent evidence that conservatives show greater sensitivity to threatening stimuli.
Here are more attempts to tie political persuasion to lower level phenomena.
My relationship with the Boy Scouts of America was not the most pleasant. I was an oddity, to be sure. I think I was at one time the only—only—second class scout to be a patrol leader. Second class. For those who may not have been through the quasi-military organization, the way it was structured in […]
The 2012 Missouri primary had several important lessons to impart. The first, which I may have discussed in previous election years, is that the way to bring the “correct” voters to the polls is to have an apparently innocuous but important candidate or issue and a loud, contentious issue or candidate that only seems to matter to one side.
In this primary cycle, there was a preponderance of hotly contested Republican seats, and a very dangerous, never advertised Tea Party constitutional amendment. Republicans came out to vote overwhelmingly, and the Amendment passed resoundingly.
The full body of the amendment is at the bottom of this article.
Basically on the ballot it read as if it was just reinforcing the first clause of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- In reality, it says that people have the right to worship the (singular, Christian) Almighty God (but not all those others) including to pray whenever their conscience dictates (such as during science classes).
- Public meetings can now be started with exclusionary prayers as long as the officiant is invited by someone.
- I have not yet figured out how the mandatory publishing of the Bill of Rights in schools will be twisted, but I expect as a precedent to posting the Ten Commandments adjacent (as an alleged inspirational source)
- Students cannot be punished for refusing to do assignments that might conflict with their faith (evolution, geology, astronomy, etc).
So I expect Missouri to soon be incurring legal fees on the order of replacing several major bridges, or (more likely) in lieu of funding science education for a decade.
[More (Including the language of the Amendment)]
A recent experiment demonstrates that synchronous actions knit the social fabric:
The results were striking: the simple act of tapping one’s hands in synchrony with another caused our participants to report feeling more similar to their partners and to have greater compassion for their plight: it increased the number of people who helped their partner by 31 percent and increased the average time spent helping from one minute to more than seven.
What these results suggest is that the compassion we feel for others is not solely a function of what befalls them: if our minds draw an association between a victim and ourselves — even a relatively trivial one — the compassion we feel for his or her suffering is amplified greatly.
Civilpolitics.org has a mission to use rigorous science to help others, including politicians, to get along. The mission is “to help you find academic scholarship that illuminates the causes and consequences of political civility and incivility.”
And here’s more, from the “Moral Psychology” page:
At CivilPolitics, most (but not all) of us believe that direct appeals to people to behave civilly will have very limited effects. We take a more social-psychological approach to the problem of intergroup conflict. We are more interested in legal, systemic, and policy changes that will, for example, change the ways that the “teams” are drawn up (e.g., in elections), and supported (e.g., financially). We want to change the playing field and the rules of the game, in the hopes that players in the future (citizens as well as politicians) will be less likely to demonize each other, mischaracterize each others’ motives, and refuse (on moral grounds) to engage in negotiations, interactions, and cooperative enterprises that would serve the nation’s interests.
Check out the “Social Psychology” page, which contains this advice (with lots of explanatory links).
Contrary to what so many of us want to believe, humans are not wired to act only as individuals; we are also wired to be intensely social. In his March 14, 2012 TED presentation, Jonathan Haidt characterized humans as half-bee. We aren’t completely socially integrated like bees–our social side clashes with our individualistic side. These two aspects of what it means to be human—our proud individualism and our craving to meld our selves with each other in large social groupings–often conflict with each other. As a result, human “hives” (the many types of human social groupings) don’t run as smoothly as the hives of true bees. Haidt argues that the scientific study of this inner-conflict offers us powerful insights into such things as religion, existential angst and warmongering.
Haidt began his 18-minute talk by asking for a show of hands. How many people in the audience consider themselves to be “religious?” Only a few raised their hands, yet a strong majority of the audience members declared themselves to be “spiritual.” Why is it that that so many people who don’t consider themselves to be religious do consider themselves to be spiritual?
[More . . .]