Why do some people vote against their economic self-interest? Why do "working class" and rural Americans vote for pro-business Republicans? What accounts for the existence of limousine liberals? There are, of course, many answers to these questions. The answers will help us understand why are conservatives losing ground politically. For some insight, consider the foundations of moral order as defined by Jonathan Haidt:
2. Fairness/reciprocity foundations
Voters use these foundations of moral order to guide them through the political maze. Conservatives tend to embrace all five moral foundations, liberals tend to emphasize the first two. (Test yourself at YourMorals.org).
I disagree very strongly with much of Jonathan Haidt's asserts, but some of what he says is spot-on:
"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.
"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.
"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."
How does this translate into real-life politics?
Examples of how conservatives and liberals traditionally differ in their application of the moral foundations:
- Opposition to intrusive, disruptive government
- Opposition to abortion
- Support for protection provided by a strong military
- Support for welfare and socialism
- Support for socialized medicine
- Opposition to war
- Support for tax cuts for everyone
- Opposition to affirmative action
- Support for progressive taxation and redistribution
- Support for affirmative action
- Support diversity programs
- Support for laws against flag burning
- Support for heterosexual-only marriage
- Opposition to graphic sex education
- Support for laws against public smoking
- Opposition to the "horrors of unbridled capitalism"
- This boils down to mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates.
- This does not come naturally to liberals, who urge us to "question authority" and assert that "dissent is patriotic."
- Support for "English Only" legislation
- Border control
- Distrust for diversity initiatives
- Think of Obama's relentless emphasis on party unity and bipartisanship. Why does the issue of unity come up so often for Democrats? It's because the Democratic Party is the party of ideologically unrelated groups promising to scratch each other’s backs. So ingroup/loyalty is an especially difficult moral foundation for progressives to harness. Some have argued that this is progressivism's achilles heel.
How can we put this to use?
We can apply an understanding of these moral foundations to understand life from the perplexing progressive perspective and to strengthen our arguments for conservative principles.
Obama's Church of Hope and Change has successfully harnessed the power of the moral foundations to gain the support of approximately half of the electorate. He stumbled a little with his comments about irrational people who bitterly cling to God and guns, but with those very comments, insulting as they were, Obama demonstrated that he understands the importance of moral foundations and the power of religious convictions.
If this is, or ever was, a center-right nation, I would argue that it is because the center-right has a firm grasp on all five moral foundations, and has been relatively successful selling its message to most of the electorate. Conservatives will need to aggressively market and continuously repackage their message in order to appeal to an increasingly diverse electorate. Demonstrating conservative commitment to fairness (in the face of Obama's shrewd redistribution schemes, which will supposedly benefit 95% of taxpayers) will be particularly challenging. The challenge will be compounded by the hostility of the news media toward conservatives, but this is a challenge that can be overcome.
What makes people vote Republican?
Progressivism's Achilles Heel
What makes people vote Democrat?
Related post: Disgusting Liberals
In case you missed it, the video of the year: