2 Articles about Conservatives (With a Big C – Meaning believers in policies we would count as right wing)
The first is from the recent American Midterm elections and compares the actions of US Republicans to those of the schoolyard bully and looks at ways of dealing with them.
The second is a more scientific article looking at recent research saying that Conservatism may be a human survival trait. It identifies the Conservative group within society as having heightened concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. If these traits are innate to peoples personalities then elections become less about persuading people round to your way of thinking and more about motivating as many as possible of your base group to vote for you.
Suddenly the US media’s hysterical reaction to Ebola and ISIS starts to make sense in the run up to an election – get the natural Conservatives really focused by playing to their innate fears!
It also perhaps explains how the UK media’s focus on Immigration seems to be doing the same for UKIP.
When Bullies Win: How Do Weary Americans Face the Post-Election Trauma? Lessons from the past can help us confront a daunting future
By Lynn Stuart Parramore November 5, 2014
Most of us did not escape that moment on the playground when the bully came over and demanded our candy. What could we do? The bruising boy and the mean girl used fear and intimidation to get their way. If that didn’t work, there were other methods. Sometimes the bully had powerful friends and came on gangster-style. Other times the mean girl shoved and hit us and left us flailing in the dirt. However it happened, it left wounds.
As a native North Carolinian, I felt some memory of those early wounds creeping into my body as I watched the election returns come in. After an ugly, protracted fight sucking up more money than any senate race in the country, Republican Thom Tillis, the speaker of the rabid North Carolina House of Representatives, beat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan by a slim margin. He will now take his bare-knuckles brand of politics to Washington.
A consummate bully, Tillis is the kind of man who allegedly shot paintballs at his neighbor’s barn. He bullies teachers, accusing them of choosing their profession in order to get rich, despite the fact that NC ranks close to the bottom of the country in teacher pay. He bullies people struggling to get by, backing a mean-spirited proposal to force those on public assistance to submit to drug testing. “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,” he once told a crowd at a NC college. He bullies women who try to terminate their pregnancies safely and has promoted measures to force them to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds. He bullies African Americans, suggesting that public assistance is “de facto reparations” for slavery. He bullies people away from the polls, trying to ensure that they have no redress for their grievances. Schoolchildren, immigrants, gay people, sick people, and the elderly have all been victims of his relentless aggression. Tillis is a bully, and he knows how to get his way.
He was just one of a whole gang of bullies who won yesterday. In Rhode Island, Democrat Gina Raimondo, who has manipulated pensions in order to funnel money away from working people to her hedge-fund friends, won the governorship. In New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo, who stooped to creating a fake women’s party in order to siphon support from the Working Families Party, keeps his place in the governor’s mansion. In Michigan, Republican governor Rick Snyder, the bully-extraordinaire who has devoted himself to union-crushing, was re-elected. And Scott Walker in Wisconsin. And so on, across the country.
Bullies on the playground are bad enough, spreading fear and a painful sense of helplessness. When we’re kids, we’re taught to follow the golden rule, to set clear boundaries with the bully, to be confident, and to find the right adult to confront our oppressor. But what do we do about grownup bullies who have the power to take away our jobs, our healthcare, and our most fundamental rights? What happens when no one will stand up to them?
When bullies like Thom Tillis grow up, they use the vast resources of their rich bully friends to amplify their fear-mongering and send it reverberating daily into every corner of our lives. When the dust settles, you can bet that the Big Oil Koch brothers will be found to have channeled rivers of their ill-gotten gains into buying the senate seat for Tillis. Tillis says the Kochs are “like family.” A family of thugs who stick together.
When we feel traumatized by bullies, we have a natural instinct to retreat, to isolate ourselves, to numb our emotions, to pretend that nothing happened, to lash out. But there are other paths our trauma can take.
In a message to the weary voters in North Carolina, the Reverend William Barber, who launched the Moral Monday movement to challenge the bully brigade, reminds us that for grownups, the only way to deal with bullies is to stick together and commit ourselves to unrelenting tenacity:
“Let me remind our friends and those would try to push us backward: the Moral Movement does not live and die by elections. It is unfortunate that we, as a state, have promoted an employee who has repeatedly failed his constituents by undermining public education, healthcare, labor rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and the environment. But our movement does not hinge — and never has hinged — on one election, one candidate, or one party. We will continue the struggle, in the courts, in the streets, in the legislature, and in building new friendships and alliances. We will continue to teach and build new coalitions of the excluded and oppressed. There is much needless suffering that can be addressed, if we all work together.”
As an African American minister, Barber carries forward the legacy of sticking together and tenacity in the face of some of the ugliest oppression in our country’s history, that force of virulent aggression that enslaved millions of people and denied them the ability to live their lives in peace long after they were ostensibly set free. The bullies burned and maimed and killed to get their way. There were no lengths to which they would not go, no ugliness they would not embrace.
A cultural trauma we feel together can create a new and binding sense of our responsibility to each other. Through their experience of oppression, African Americans were able to forge a strong collective identity and a powerful sense of community. There are lessons to be learned there as we struggle with our anger and our fear.
Since the financial crisis, in particular, I do believe that there is an emerging sense of collective oppression happening the U.S. and indeed around the world. People who are not wealthy, whether they be poor or just getting by or middle class, recognize that they have something in common. The 99 percent slogan, which has penetrated our consciousness, speaks to this emerging sense of shared identity.
The powerful react to this development and the force that potentially comes with it by terrorizing and dividing us. But every time we go to the polls, every time we attend a community gathering, every time we organize, and every time we just talk to each other about what we are experiencing and learning, we offer an affront to that strategy.
My mother, a retired educator, is 82 years old. She was arrested in one of the Moral Monday protests, and worked at the polls on Tuesday in Raleigh, NC. When I spoke to her this morning, I thought I would hear depression, but instead, I heard tenacity in her voice, as well as a feeling of shared responsibility. “If I were 20 years younger,” she said passionately, “I would be joining Reverend Barber’s every march going forward.”
While upset by the election results, she was cheered by the strong voter turnout in the state and some of the local victories that have turned stone-age conservatives out of positions of power, like what happened on Tuesday to the Wake County Board of Commissioners — a body that wields tremendous power through its control of spending of the Wake County Public School System. Conservatives on the board have committed themselves to crippling public education and to resegregating one of the most progressive school systems in the South. The GOP recently ran an attack ad warning that a Democratic majority on the board would “rubber stamp Rev. Barber’s Moral Monday demands all over our county.”
On Tuesday, in a stunning sweep, four incumbent conservatives were turned out of office. They lost their majority and a more progressive group of Democrats now have control. How did it happen? As the News and Observer put it, “the opposition woke up and found good candidates.”
That seems a small victory, but not to the more than 155,000 students in the Wake County school system. For the rest of us —and, frankly, for them, too — the future promises a great deal of bullying, pushing and shoving. Can we keep on, bruised and bloodied? We must.
Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative. Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to By Chris Mooney Tue Jul. 15, 2014 5:00 AM EDT
You could be forgiven for not having browsed yet through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.
Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it, and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology, and even traits like physiology and genetics.
That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics—upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).
It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”
The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).
In other words, the US conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets—centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns—would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.
The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.) We had John Hibbing on the Inquiring Minds podcast earlier this year, and he discussed these ideas in depth; you can listen here:
Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what’s truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, “22 or 23 accept the general idea” of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of “modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work,” and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.
That’s pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that
There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.
Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann Coulter, George Will, and National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants; and they got lots of hate mail. But what’s clear is that today, they’ve more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.
“One possibility,” note the authors, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed.
Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that “successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience.”
All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.