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Memo to Dems: Touch All the Moral Bases 
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Post Memo to Dems: Touch All the Moral Bases
J. Haidt has pulled off a neat trick by giving his research a completely practical and real-world application. He went into some deep and somewhat obscure areas in his work, but he emerged to advise the Democratic party on why it was so unsuccessful in winning presidencies between 1980 and 2008. Maybe this currency of his is also what enabled him to move from dear old UVA to the NYU Business School. He must be readying himself for bigger commercial things.

Briefly, Haidt lays out six areas or foundations of morality that are evolutionarily derived, and that every group in the world draws on in some combination to form its particular moral matrix. He attributes the Republican/Conservative wing's greater success to its exploitation of all six foundations (care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression). These are our human moral receptors, and it would make sense that politicians who tailor their messages to as many as possible will draw in more voters. Haidt and his team did extensive research that determined that while liberal politicians stress only care/harm and fairness/cheating, conservatives stress to an about equal degree all six, although they will have different specific angles on the first two foundations than will the liberals. Haidt notes that the one Democratic president during the period, Bill Clinton, actually was more adept at covering the other four foundations, and he also had a more folksy, less cool and cerebral demeanor than the other Democratic candidates (Dukakis, Kerry, Gore), which Haidt says goes against the Democratic type.

During the 2008 campaign, Haidt thought that Barack Obama had broadened the moral base in his speeches, which enabled him to be elected. After winning, though, he retreated to the Democratic stronghold of the first two foundations and has struggled to keep the public with him.



Last edited by DWill on Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:51 pm
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Post Re: Memo to Dems: Touch All the Moral Bases
DWill wrote:

Briefly, Haidt lays out six areas or foundations of morality that are evolutionarily derived, and that every group in the world draws on in some combination to form its particular moral matrix. He attributes the Republican/Conservative wing's greater success to its exploitation of all six foundations (care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression). These are our human moral receptors, and it would make sense that politicians who tailor their messages to as many as possible will draw in more voters. Haidt and his team did extensive research that determined that while liberal politicians stress only care/harm and fairness/cheating, conservatives stress to an about equal degree all six, although they will have different specific angles on the first two foundations than will the liberals. Haidt notes that the one Democratic president during the period, Bill Clinton, actually was more adept at covering the other four foundations, and he also had a more folksy, less cool and cerebral demeanor than the other Democratic candidates (Dukakis, Kerry, Gore), which Haidt says goes against the Democratic type.

Set up: I am only in chap 7, so, what I am about to say might be ahead of me in the book.

I have a theory that there are two other dimensions to at least some of the moral foundations that help to explain why the Republicans seem to be more successful at reaching voters these days. They are inclusiveness/exclusiveness and local/universal. Now let's see if I can explain what I mean. Take the bumper stickers shown on p. 135: the liberal one exemplifies caring, but in universal and inclusive dimensions (Darfur) and the conservative one shows caring that is exclusive and more local (only Vets of the home group). I will go out on a limb and say that in general people are more sympathetic to members of their own group - at least initially - and that equals local and exclusive. Sorry, statement without any kind of evidence for support, but I do think the evidence is out there in the social science literature. I think that this tendency to lean toward ones own group heightens the appeal of the current Republican platform. I suspect there is even one more (at least) thing at play. I am toying with the idea that in difficult times a group is more likely to be more nationalistic and more exclusionary to those seen as outside the group. An example of this can be seen in the USA's attitude of isolationism in response to what was going on in Europe in the late 1930s.



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Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:42 pm
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Post Re: Memo to Dems: Touch All the Moral Bases
Saffron wrote:
DWill wrote:

Briefly, Haidt lays out six areas or foundations of morality that are evolutionarily derived, and that every group in the world draws on in some combination to form its particular moral matrix. He attributes the Republican/Conservative wing's greater success to its exploitation of all six foundations (care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression). These are our human moral receptors, and it would make sense that politicians who tailor their messages to as many as possible will draw in more voters. Haidt and his team did extensive research that determined that while liberal politicians stress only care/harm and fairness/cheating, conservatives stress to an about equal degree all six, although they will have different specific angles on the first two foundations than will the liberals. Haidt notes that the one Democratic president during the period, Bill Clinton, actually was more adept at covering the other four foundations, and he also had a more folksy, less cool and cerebral demeanor than the other Democratic candidates (Dukakis, Kerry, Gore), which Haidt says goes against the Democratic type.

Set up: I am only in chap 7, so, what I am about to say might be ahead of me in the book.

I have a theory that there are two other dimensions to at least some of the moral foundations that help to explain why the Republicans seem to be more successful at reaching voters these days. They are inclusiveness/exclusiveness and local/universal. Now let's see if I can explain what I mean. Take the bumper stickers shown on p. 135: the liberal one exemplifies caring, but in universal and inclusive dimensions (Darfur) and the conservative one shows caring that is exclusive and more local (only Vets of the home group). I will go out on a limb and say that in general people l are more sympathetic to members of their own group - at least initially - and that equals local and exclusive. Sorry, statement without any kind of evidence for support, but I do think the evidence is out there in the social science literature. I think that this tendency to lean toward ones own group heightens the appeal of the current Republican platform. I suspect there is even one more (at least) thing at play. I am toying with the idea that in difficult times a group is more more likely to be more nationalistic and more exclusionary to those seen as outside the group. An example of this can be seen in the attitude of isolationism in response to what was going on in Europe in the late 1930s.

That Republicans do a better job right now of catching the mood of the country is really interesting, and it's something I don't recall Haidt as saying, except maybe in the sense that he himself was pulled in a more conservative, Loyalty/Authority/Sanctity direction right after 9/11. So external events do cause a shift in the moral matrix, or cause certain of the foundations to light up suddenly. This does make a kind of sense, since Haidt is saying that none of us lack any of the moral receptors. They are like buttons that even if unactivated, can be activated later on, at least in a portion of a population.

I agree about group feelings becoming more intense and then waning. Look at all the flak Obama has gotten for even suggesting that we can learn from the way other countries do things. 9/11 seems to have been responsible for much of this pulling into our national shell. Xenophobia is always present in American life. Haidt specifies that humans are contingent (I think that's his word) altruists, meaning that altruism evolved genetically to work within groups to make them stronger in relation to other groups. To an extent, then, pure altruism, extending to anyone regardless of group, is unnatural.



Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:17 pm
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