Monday, April 16, 2012

Right Wingers want government to punish the wicked and reward the righteous

Chris Mooney is the author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality, which is being hype at the usual places: Washington Post and Daily Kos.

While Mooney cites academic research, his analysis is significantly wrong. Mooney sees "Conservatives" as opposing change. This seems inconsistent with the observed behavior of "Conservative" (Republican) politicians and their supporters. My more accurate description of the psychology of Republicans and other Right Wingers (including "Libertarians") is below.

Mooney explains Republicans thus:
Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open — less exploratory, less in need of change — and more “conscientious,” a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change — in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’ ”
And later he writes:
Now consider another related trait implicated in our divide over reality: the “need for cognitive closure.” This describes discomfort with uncertainty and a desire to resolve it into a firm belief. Someone with a high need for closure tends to seize on a piece of information that dispels doubt or ambiguity, and then freeze, refusing to consider new information. Those who have this trait can also be expected to spend less time processing information than those who are driven by different motivations, such as achieving accuracy.

A number of studies show that conservatives tend to have a greater need for closure than do liberals, which is precisely what you would expect in light of the strong relationship between liberalism and openness. “The finding is very robust,” explained Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland psychologist who has pioneered research in this area and worked to develop a scale for measuring the need for closure.
While Mooney is mostly correct on these points, I strongly believe he's missed the true defining emotion of Right Wing ideology.

Adherents of Right Wing ideology want some combination of God, government and the economy to increase the contrast in the social hierarchy. The people at the high end can never be exalted enough (tax cuts for the rich, no matter the cost); the people at the low end need to be punished (classic argument, "Just because he didn't deserve to be killed for that doesn't mean he didn't deserve to be killed for something else.")

Democrats are a hodgepodge of ideologies that represent various people who have figured out they stand to lose if Republicans gain power.

Some groups include:

1. Government should make people equal;
2. Government should try to uplift everyone;
3. Government should try to uplift my group and we're not powerful enough to align with the GOP
4. Government should try to do little or nothing.

Republicans would love to claim that they speak for the people who would prefer only the most minor course corrections, what should be labelled "small 'c' conservatism".

But anyone who is honest about what Republicans actually do has to acknowledge the party has an agenda. It's pretty clearly anti-labor unions, anti-abortion/anti-contraception, pro-corporate power, etc. When Republicans gain power, they have an agenda they move forward.

Mooney's analysis shows why people like Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, get so frustrated. Even when Mooney is supposedly critiquing "conservatism", he's explaining it in the way it's adherents want it projected to the electorate, not how it really operates.

Being polite might be a forgivable error, if Mooney's synopsis wasn't trying to explain "Conservatism". It's ridiculous to say that the ideological camp that initiated the Iraq War and numerous radical policies is trying to stop history from moving forward. Real world "Conservatives" are trying to most history forward in a radical way. Some of the nut jobs are actively trying to bring about Armageddon as described in the Book of Revelation.

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