Why do people vote Republican?

nixonPsychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the question on The Edge, with eight responses from the Reality Club. This self-described liberal suggests:

Democrats would do well to read Durkheim and think about the quasi-religious importance of the criminal justice system. The miracle of turning individuals into groups can only be performed by groups that impose costs on cheaters and slackers. You can do this the authoritarian way (with strict rules and harsh penalties) or you can do it using the fairness/reciprocity foundation by stressing personal responsibility and the beneficence of the nation towards those who “work hard and play by the rules.” But if you don’t do it at all—if you seem to tolerate or enable cheaters and slackers — then you are committing a kind of sacrilege.

Afterwards, Howard Gardner wonders why left-wing societies have lower crime rates and more stable marriages; Michael Shermer decries what he calls liberal bias in academia; James Fowler wonders why people vote at all; Alison Gopnik asks what about the children; Roger Schank gets the last word:

Republicans do not try to change voter’s beliefs. They go with them. Democrats appeal to reason. Big mistake.

[Nixon by Rockwell; story tip: Eric Alterman]

Update: In light of stuff like this, at least one of the U.S. Presidential candidates has a website to register to vote or to confirm registration.  I haven’t found it on the other guy’s site, but I’m probably just overlooking it. [Thanks again, Todd]

12 thoughts on “Why do people vote Republican?”

  1. One theme that I found repeated in the articles that I never saw challenged was the statement that left-wing or liberal states have
    less crime, more stable marriages and higher life-satisfaction ratings. Washington DC is arguable the most liberal area in
    America, and consistently has one of the highest violent crime rates. Also
    consider California, that hotbed of liberalism. Is there less divorce or
    crime there? I think this is a made-up statistic, or at least an inflated
    one prepared by a biased surveyor.

  2. I took it that “states” referred to “nation-states” rather than subdivisions of a larger country, though not being American I tend to default to that reading of the term at most times.

  3. I also took it to mean nation-states, too: Switzerland being more stable than, say, Guatemala. The U.S. is too big and too much of an outlier to generalize about. We’re really a European liberal democracy AND a third-world country sharing the same geographic area. Also, we tend to have a lot of guns.

  4. I guess it must be difficult to resist, but I submit to you that Futurismic would benefit from not promoting such blatant political condescension as appears at the linked site. There are good and bad people among both Republicans and Democrats. For those who wish to promote their own political perspectives, they should endeavor to make logical arguments about issues, rather than grossly insult the people with whom they disagree by means of massively-pretentious pseudo-psychoanalysis. Honorable, intelligent, and mentally-sound people can certainly disagree about many, many things in politics, such as: how big or small government should be, what tax policies will lead to the most prosperity, what should be the pillars or our foreign policy, should there be any restrictions on abortion, what should be our rights in terms of gun ownership, does God exist and what role should religion have in society, what should be our energy policies, should private schools receive public funds, should churches be tax exempt, should every able-bodied person be required to perform national service, should social security be rescued or phased out, etc! Opinions on some of those almost-mundane things, and many others too, tend to shape whether people choose to be Republicans, Democrats, or others. You don’t have to be mentally ill, or suffer from weird neuroses, merely to choose your party! There are both extremely sane and extremely insane people in both these major parties. Those who presume to declare members of the other major party as mentally deficient in some manner, whether in terms of intelligence or sanity, are just plain wrong, regardless of the mellifluous prose they may use to express themselves. And they are every bit as wrong as those who justified black slavery by asserting that it was, of course, the “natural role” for blacks — a view which was supported by no shortage whatsoever of comparable pseudo-scientific nonsense in those days.

  5. Your suggestion is noticed, Robert, and your reasonable tone deployed to deliver it greatly appreciated. However, two points: first, I can see how linking an article could be defined as promoting it, but the context of the post in which the link occurs should make it plain whether or not the post’s author is endorsing the viewpoint linked to, which is, I think we can agree, something quite different. And speaking as an outsider to the American political process, from what I see of it in the media (mainstream or otherwise) neither faction has any measurable monopoly on condescension.

    Second point, dovetailing off from the one before it: all writing and opinions published on Futurismic are legally owned by their writers, not the site – and that extends to commenters, too, as you may have noticed in the Comments Policy. I don’t tell Tom what he should post, and I don’t expect to have to; he’s a sensible man. And nowhere in his post above does he mention his own opinion of the linked article; in fact, he’s almost at pains not to do so, and while those opinions can be inferred from his silence, that’s a very different thing… and for Tom to respond to, if he chooses, not me.

    As to the issue you raise regarding the substance of the article, I am inclined to agree with your points – all the while feeling that I must have read an entirely different article to the one that prompted your comment. But I would thank you again for your reasoned (and reasonable) response, and invite you to expand upon your argument if you feel the urge.

  6. Well, first of all, thank you, Paul and Robert, for keeping the dialogue reasonable and thoughtful.

    If Futurismic were a political blog I might have more partisan things to say, but it isn’t, so I try to stay within mission parameters: near-future science and sf. I try to restrict my political rants to here, where I show myself to be the kind of raving left-winger that only a former disciple of Ayn Rand could be. (Psychology, anyone?)

    But of course politics is part of the future, and the processes of politics — technology, media, sociology, psychology — seem deeply relevant to the near future. So I couldn’t resist a post on why people vote the way they do, and I like to think I would have blogged about an article entitled “Why Do People Vote for Democrats?” or “Why Do People Vote for Third Parties?” Or even “Why Do You Vote at All and Should You Bother?”

    I did have a bit of hesitation about the piece from The Edge, but if you take the Haidt article together with the rather substantive comments, it’s a pretty interesting give and take, or so it seemed to me.

    I’m kind of surprised poor Paul didn’t get more complaints about this, which seems newsworthy, or this, which I admit is pretty silly.

    All those questions Robert lists are perfectly good ones, not to mention great starting points for sf stories. I’d be surprised if psychology or neurosis did NOT play a part in voting decisions, but who knows how that would play out? Ad agencies would pay a fortune for a straight answer. There was a whole school of thought in sf about how psychology would one day become an exact science and “insane” ideas would be eradicated: Has anybody read or re-read A.E. van Vogt’s The World of Null-A recently? (I did, and found it painful but fascinating.)

    There have been times when I have tried to guess the political leanings of people based on what I perceive (totally as an amateur) to be their psychology or their neuroses, not to mention what they wear, eat, drive, etc. I’ve been surprised as often as not, so I’ve given up.

    Robert, thanks for reading, and please continue to post comments.

  7. I agree with the above comments on tone and polite dialogue, and admit
    that I sometimes rant myself. I do think that my interpretation
    of “states” as American states was valid considering the subject matter was
    American voting parties. That said, these are some of the best replies that I’ve
    seen, disagreeing but respecting the other person’s viewpoint. This is why
    I read futurismic regularly. I always seem to learn something.

  8. “Howard Gardner wonders why left-wing societies have lower crime rates and more stable marriages; ”

    I have a provisional hypothesis for both depending on we are defending “left wing.” If by that we tend to mean European nations, I suspect the answer to both is that the U.S. Constitution is a much better protector of individual rights and that the emphasis on individual rights in this country provides both cultural and legal obstacles to stabilizing marriages and curbing crime.

    On the crime issues, when you look at European states they tend to have far more expansive police powers. In many parts of Europe if there is an unsolved rape it is completely legal for police to simply round up all men in the area and perform DNA tests on them.

    Obviously this is an oversimplification, but I expect to some extent the high crime rate and lack of stable marriages is simply the price we pay for a much more expansive view of individual freedom.

  9. California is not the hotbed of liberalism. Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island are along with Washington DC. The reality is, a postmodern perspective does bring people cross-culturally, together. Let’s embrace that concept that both republicans and democrats love America, and want to see it thrive. However it is merely the way in which we ensure that success. It is clear through practice that a welfare state benefits the nation more. It is worth continuing in the vein of FDR similar principles and ignoring movement conservatism because it only makes disparity of income and racial tension worse.

  10. Democrats appeal to reason?

    Then why do they enthusiastically endorse massive government Ponzi Schemes? Where is the “reason”?

    Why do they redefine words? “Pro-choice” equals no choice. “Affirmative” action equals racism. “Liberal” equals illiberal. “Progressive” equals regressive.

    Where’s the reason?

  11. Likwidshoe,

    Your “definitions” are the ones redefining words; you don’t have an accurate understanding of any of the phrases listed. Pro-choice, affirmative action, liberal… you throw those words out like they are “obviously insidious Orwellian words used to brainwash the masses” without applying any of that “reason” you seem to desperately invoking.

    Try getting a better understanding of what liberals and/or Democrats really are after instead of parroting some dittohead nonsense…

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