What Makes People Vote Republican?

William Scott Scherk's picture
Submitted by William Scott Scherk on Wed, 2008-09-17 21:11

Here's a snippet and a link to an essay from Edge, by Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis. It is a provocative piece that aims to advise Democrats who "don't get it" -- who mistake the electorate's motives and self-interest (there is also a followup by Michael Shermer well worth the read).

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.


( categories: )

No one should vote Republican

mvardoulis's picture

...and no one should vote Democrat. It's really very simple: they both steal your freedom or at the very least put it up for auction. All psychological points you raise have some subjective validity to be sure, but even the family, like LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE epistimologically and otherwise, is a FUNCTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL. In other words AN INDIVIDUAL chooses to associate with their biological family, create other 'families' or otherwise determine what a 'family' even consists of. In other words, I don't think the study you mention reflects the ultimate source of society.

IMO, as I've always said, Republicans don't care any more about the individual (other than the occasional lip service but Democrats do that as well) than Democrats. Even the Libertarian Party has abandoned the individual when they threw out their platform and ran neo-conservative Bob Barr for President. There really aren't a whole lot of political options for individual liberty here in the United Police States - for voters in any geography.


gregster's picture

Scherk the opening lines are way off the mark.

This bit here is very very wrong: "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?"

This is the same old line that voting for the redistributive party of 'social justice' somehow has a positive economic result for the 'worker.' In reality, policies of minimal taxation + minimal government + minimal regulation have easily the better net effect for the less well off.

He should stick to the psychologizing.

" 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." Tough titties man.

"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."

Concludes poorly:

"The three Durkheimian foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity are powerful tools in that struggle."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.