Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Do People Vote Democrat?

Jonathan Haidt is at it again over at Edge. He asks: "What makes people vote Republican?" in the way that an entomologist might ask "Why do some species of ticks eat the genitals of their mates?" He implies that voting Democrat is the obviously superior and rational choice, so we need to really delve into why anyone in their right mind would ever vote for a Republican. Here's a taste:

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.

So basically, people vote Republican because they're genetically predisposed to like dictatorial leadership styles. Got it.

If you read the whole thing (which honestly isn't worth it), you can see Haidt bending over backwards to pay lip service to objectivity. But the article is dripping with innuendo and condescension of conservatives.

Having actually voted for Republicans at various times in the past, I can tell you why I did it, and it wasn't because I have an inherited love of authoritarianism. The Republican party has substantial overlap with Libertarians when it comes to certain issues, namely taxes, spending, and certain rights issues, such as gun control. This is why Ron Paul is in the Republican party. Not all Republicans actually follow the precepts of smaller government, more local control, and lower taxes, but that's the platform. Is a working class voter a reflexive idiot for thinking such policies might actually benefit him/her more than Democratic economic policy?

Yet when it comes to issues like freedom of religion, reproductive education and rights, tolerance for alternative lifestyles, and so on, the Republicans are more intrusive and less libertarian than the Democrats. That's why I can't just saddle up with either side. There's too much I don't like about both parties.

But back to Haidt...his approach is lame and insulting. One could just as easily write an article which drips with the same condescension for Democrats. E.g.:

Why do people vote for tax-and-spend Democrats when fiscally conservative, pro-business policies would seem to better serve their interests? Psychological studies show that Democratic supporters show a greater affinity for the soft, permissive parenting of their mothers, rather than the strength of their fathers. In a world full of insecurity in the face of rogue nations and distributed terrorist threats, why would anyone choose soft and nurturing over powerful and determined, unless they held a genetic predisposition for the desire to be cuddled and coddled.

Gosh, do you think Democrats would be as insulted by such a passage as Republicans would be by Haidt's? Hmmm?


Anonymous said...

You've misunderstood Haidt's article. His whole point is that the democrats do not stand on intellectual or moral high-ground, as many democrats think they obviously do. Although the title of Haidt's piece does indeed seem condecending to a conservative mind, he is writing to the academic and overwhelmingly liberal demograpgic who would really appreciate an answer the said question. Haidt is a pioneer in his field of study, and outght to be applauded for his objectivity and foresight in his work on morality and the human condition.

Anonymous said...

You are pretty dumb. Haidt's article is way over your head.

Anonymous said...

I certainly did not mean to insult you - just that there was a little more to consider. Just a thought. Check out Michael Shermer's response to Haidt's article @
He goes even further than Haidt & helps to put his ideas in perspective.

Russ Nelson said...

I must agree. Haidt's article was pitiful. "Look at me! I've learned to be objective! Conservatives aren't stupid! They just have misguided morals! In order to win them over, we (the good people) must reframe our policies so they appeal to morality-seeking morons."

Anonymous said...

I see Haidt's article as doing conservatives a service by taking the wind out of the sails of liberals who would appeal to old stereotypes and misunderstandings. Haidt is calling out to liberals and saying "you can't simply write off the conservative frame of mind as primitive or base". He is speaking out against vocal left-wingers that haven't given the conservative frame of mind much thought. It's a shame that conservatives would dismiss Haidt's work simply because of the title.

mark said...

Democrats can not stop being mean. The fight between Obama and Hillary went on way too long and seriously hurt Obama. The attacks against Palin before her speech helped that be the most watched speech of both convention or any convention in history. Every time the attack her on her lack of experience they remind everyone of how little experience Obama has. In an election you have to choose when to be mean and when not too. Democrats can not stop when they need to, Maybe they don't even know they are being mean?

byronfrombyron said...

Well, I find this entry to be much more lucid than your anti-Chesterton one, sir. I find this entry interesting, but would appreciate some explanation of why Germany's "best" psychologists came to the USA, for those of us who don't have the history of psychology in our training. Were they planted by, or fleeing from Hitler? And even if they were fleeing him, what were their politics? Such things affect their credibility greatly.

Kenny Wyland said...

Ok, I've been away at Camp Obama so I didn't get a chance to respond to this until now.

I've read through the whole article and honestly, it sounds like you stopped reading after the third paragraph.

I read the article and the majority of it to me is saying to the Democrats that they aren't able to convince more people to join them because they are too dismissive of those people. It talks a great deal about how those people who he assumes should vote Democratic for financial reasons vote Republican instead. He says that Democrats aren't looking at their lives and their perspectives and understanding them. Instead, he says, the Democrats are being dismissive and insulting them that they are backwards, behind-the-times thinkers.

You took:

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.

and turned it into:

So basically, people vote Republican because they're genetically predisposed to like dictatorial leadership styles. Got it.

With all of your pondering of hierarchies lately, I'm surprised that you would jump from hierarchical to dictatorial. Cmon dude, that's simplistic bullshit.

Everybody knows that some people are inherently afraid of change. The unknown is scary and for some it's very scary. This isn't a revelation.

Liberal vs. Conservative is at its core the choice between new ideas and the old ideas. A conservative mindset is about status quo "values" (quoted because I don't consider many of those stances to be of actual value). Conservative mindsets inherently disregard other viewpoints. Liberal mindsets are inherently about accepting other people's viewpoints.

This is what the article is truly about, that the Democrats are failing in regards to swaying these voters because they aren't treating those religious voters with the same acceptance and inclusiveness as they should. This is one of the things that I like about Obama, he's breaking down this ridiculous narrative that all Christian voters are Republican.

"We worship an awesome God in the blue states" was one of the best lines in Obama's speech at the 2004 DNC for Kerry. He was attempting to break down this false barrier and touch all of those voters that the Democratic party had been alienating.

Anonymous said...

Your complete misunderstanding of the article leaves you unqualified to write even a blog entry about it.

Kenny Wyland said...

Found this today and figured it was interesting to this discussion..

Study shows liberal vs conservative views are highly correlated to how easily you are startled.

People who were easily startled and were more susceptible to automatic fear responses tended to hold conservative social stances. Those were less driven by automatic fear responses tended to hold liberal social stances.

Anonymous said...

The study mentioned fearing death as a factor? The only people who fear death that I know are athiests and almost all athiests are Democrats.
Don't get me wrong I am not talking about Republicans just walking in front of busses but I have never had the need to list death as a worry of mine.

Kenny Wyland said...

Anon, I'll counter your anecdotal evidence with my own. All of the people who I know who fear death are afraid of it because they don't want to burn in eternal torture in a fiery Hell and the atheists I know do not fear death because they believe that there is nothing after death and therefore nothing to fear.

Anonymous said...

democrats are commie bastards!! I can't stand them or liberals.. If there is a civil war I promise to take out 5 liberals!!! bastards!! especially boston mass with that coakley pro child molester moron..

I'm an independent but i have to admit, democrats are scum bag pieces of crap, every last one..

Anonymous said...

this was a great article by this pioneer. It helped me break down my simplistic assumptions about the moral superiority of the left, However I wonder if anyone on the right will publish an article on why and how left wingers think and formulate policy, that is this well argued and well researched.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? I choose to vote Republican because in my opinion they are the lesser of two evils. Its not because I'm not open to change or against liberals. Democrats if given the opportunity would turn this into a communist country in a heart beat. I don't agree with giving free healthcare, housing, food, ect to worthless drug using idiots sitting at home with absolutely no intention of getting a job and contributing to society. They make up half of the voting democrats and I choose to not be associated with them.