Why you vote the way you do

Dateline: Wed 20 Jun 2012

From The Week magazine, June 1, 2012 issue:

"Many studies have shown that conservatives react more strongly than liberals to signs of danger, while novelty seeking and openness to experience are among the best-established correlates of liberalism. "

Well, really, you need to read the entire article, which is based on a book, "The Righteous Mind," by Jonathan Haidt.

Here's the link:


I've long been fascinated by two phenomenon: why some people develop religious faith and beliefs, and others do not, and why we pick the politics we do.

Years ago, I asked Dan Carpenter, the Indianapolis Star's columnist, to explain to me what he thought the difference was between libs and conservatives. He said, simply and eloquently, "Liberals react with their heart. Conservatives with their minds," or words to that effect.

My good friend Kathy Jesse, one of the best writers ever to work for the Star as a reporter, once told me, "You expect individuals to do for themselves. I believe in the power of government (or community, or larger society) to effect difference," or words to that effect.

The danger vs. novelty-seeking Haidt identifies speaks volumes to me. I grew up as the only child of a widowed mother; I spent a portion of my childhood averaging the ages listed in obituaries in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (and the News-Sentinel, but I was more alert in the mornings, thus the a.m. paper affected me more.) The point is: I was terrified of losing my mother because I had lost my father. I did the obit numbers in an effort to determine if she would live a few years longer, and thus provide for me. Hence my sense of danger: the world was always about to collapse at my feet, via the death of a parent. Hence I became "a conservative." Honestly. Cautious. Aware of the world's many inherent dangers and perils.

But of course, the '60s rolled around, and many of the lessons then were about love, tolerance and social liberation.  I was not immune, nor was I immune to the lure and power and liberation in drugs. Hence, at a social level, a liberal. Also, my mother and (dead) father were libs: "FDR saved the country" was part of the gospel on which I was raised. Eugene Debs was not far behind.

I like to think I vote as an independent. But there is at my core a strong conservative streak formed by the dangers inherent in the potential loss of the one remaining parent. And other factors: I tend to think like a cop. Shit is always going down, and free will can be a bitch. People make bad choices.

On the other hand, I have always appreciated my liberal friends because they tolerated me. Unlike some conservatives I know, who strike me as uptight, judgmental and, on occasion, vicious, I am grateful for the freedom (from childhood) to read, and think, whatever I chose. Thanks for the lack of doctrination.  I like to breathe free air.

Anyhow, read the article. Then, if anyone is still reading this blog, let me know what formed you. I am curious, as always. You?


hendy [Member] said:

It'll be interesting to see the responses. Much research has been done in this area, and none of it seems to suit anyone.

2012-06-20 21:39:43

ruthholl [Member] said:

Yeah. I have to read this guy's book. Fascinating topic.
Why is the research suspect?

2012-06-20 22:02:53

Miss Busybody [unverified] said:

But, Ruth: you're a Roman Catholic. How can you claim freedom to read or think whatever your choose?

2012-06-21 00:50:15

hendy [Member] said:

@MissBusybody, your capacity troll is only matched by your ineffective insult.

@Ruth, any number of different memes have resulted after each study is released. What drives each? It boils down to a personal belief, then the bits of straw that make the strawman of how we digest news. We're all tribes and we behave that way.

The labels are ultimately ineffective. My brand of "social justice" underlies what I do. Sometimes the "liberals" get it right. Occasionally, the conservatives see the majesty of keeping spendthrifts in check. I'm the product of an Irish Catholic social justice seeker/adherent with a convert to Catholicism that rejected a WASP aristocratic, white-male domination legacy. For each, the answer is tough.

Testosterone rules this planet. It goads horrible decisions, prejudice, hate, and domination, not to mention subjugation and random craziness. Generally, fear drives conservatism. Some people are terminally naive. Some are terminally skeptical. I'm the skeptical and am proven correct way too frequently.

2012-06-21 07:14:00

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The devout insist that a moral society cannot exist without religion (specifically the Christian religion). Contrary evidence says that mankind developed moral values out of self interest...and Religion, recognizing opportunity, acted in corporate interest by asserting that all moral values stem from the Bible. (I hope that's not the case since there are some pretty cruel, bloody, irrational and vindictive "moral values" in the bible.)
Ultimately, moderates who apprise both liberal and conservative positions occupy the moral high ground, though perhaps not the actual high ground.

(My father was a newspaper political reporter and editor. He kept his opinions to himself, saying that neutrality was crucial for fair journalism. My childhood friends were devout Catholics (whose practices often puzzled me) and Jews (who were generally more fun). I have at different times been more liberal, more conservative, more moderate. But at all times I have tried to avoid drinking the Kool Aid and following the party line.

2012-06-21 09:02:42

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

First of all, welcome back. And we need to talk.

Secondly, "The Week" is a delightful collection of articles...missed this one. Thanks for the post.

Thirdly--how we vote is often a product of how we think. And sadly, a majority of us don't vote, so....draw your own conclusions.

In the same week we name a governor president of a Big Ten research/land grant university, I have reason to be suspicious of how we ALL vote. Or why.

I've also worked election-day polls for 40 years. I can testify first-hand that too many of us walk into the polling place completely ignorant of most of the candidates. So, I'm for less government however we get it, because if we have to VOTE for people to run, it, I'm a little worried.

As oft-stated, "We're all a little crazy 'cept me and Thee, McGee, and I'm a little concerned about Thee."

2012-06-21 16:48:16

hendy [Member] said:

Another very interesting post at http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jun/18/curse-political-purity/ has some interesting, if blunt observations.

As for Daniels becoming president of Purdue, it's a bad idea in so many ways. It starts with the conflict of interests on the part of those that nominated him-- he put 100% on the committee that named him. It gets worse from there. I have a nephew going there in the fall. It's going to be strange.

2012-06-21 18:19:28

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Ruth, so glad to see you back here! I've been praying for you. I don't have much else in this frail old body that works these days, but your blog helps keep my brain (what's left of it) working.

To answer the question posed, I would need to write a book. But I find that Hendy's comment matches a lot of my thoughts about all of the violence and intolerance in the world:

"Testosterone rules this planet."

That's why we need more women running things on this planet. That's why we need Ruth blogging away as she's able.

2012-06-21 23:01:32

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Deep down we're all still cavemen.

Speaking of which: It's nice that Tim Durham will go to the Big House for his greed, thievery, hubris and bad taste, but it doesn't do much to really relieve the misery of his victims.

2012-06-22 06:53:43

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Mr. Durham sprinkled money liberally on favored politicians, notably" Carl Brizzi for Prosecutor, and (the late) Paul Ricketts for Lawrence Township Assessor.

Yep. When a playboy gazillionaire, son-in-law to Buert SerVaas, gives 10 large to a township assessor candidate, it qualifies as stupid money. The Lawrence thing might get a pass.... politics out that way is strangely corrupt.

I'm convinced the Durham thing is the main reason Carl didn't run for another prosecutor's term. God knows he loved the camera. A tip from fed friends that Durham was going down?

Money, politics, testosterone. And a complete lack of common sense.

Still, I can't get exorcised about Durham spending the rest of his life in jail. Revenge isn't in me. Justice is...so, whatever this judge (Jane Stinson) decides, will be just fine with me. She is an excellent judge.

2012-06-22 08:01:49

hendy [Member] said:

IMHO, TTT, there was more and ugly beneath Brizzi's surface. This is a mean man, not such a good prosecutor. Durham was an equal. Is there a reason these guys hang together, kind of like a mutual admiration society?

Democracy needs an open forum, but politics seem to forbid this. One of these day, the slipperiness will be more difficult to hide, not that people won't try. But I'll also have to say that being in politics these days is a privacy suicide. Your life, glory and warts and all, are subject to vast and long discussion, whereas we just wanted people to fulfill specific leadership positions within government. I genuinely pity some of these people, the real ones.

And then there are people who will vote, not based on facts but on instinct, alphabetical order (as in the first on the list), believing that a party-line vote is also a statement. It is: foolishness.

Oh, the empty suits and dresses we've put into office. Our ability to learn and retain seems abysmal, and the memes go on.

2012-06-22 08:21:39

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

The problem is not what we think, it's how we think. All of tend to process stuff in dualistic ways: us-them, liberal-conservative, right-wrong, winner-loser, gay-straight.

We think like that because it's easier and more efficient, to think like that. All our institutions do it: church, political parties, businesses, governments.

As long as we engage in dualistic thinking, we are doomed to outcomes that fail everyone.

That's my way of thinking. I don't really know where it comes from except for a brief memory when I was a kid in grade school and one of my teachers made a simple point of how many different ways it is possible to have a math equation that will equal the sum of 12. For some reason, that provoked a total brain shift for me as I saw the truth of that statement in every single segment of life and experience.

I keep on hoping the next generation will abandon dualism. But I am not sure they will. For example, in my business now, we are concerned about carbon dixoide emissions from power plants. I have long wondered why we don't simply take the carbon dioxide from the emissions and mix it with the steam (H2O) that power plants already produce. If we mix it, we can produce a base hydrocarbon compound -- the stuff that fossil fuels are made from. When we bind that hydrogen with the CO2, it will also produce pure oxygen.

Anyway...our one way or the other dualism keeps us blind to so many possibilities.

And all I have seen in my life is a hardening of positions and glorification and redefinition of that dualism as principle or steadfastness. All it actually is is a refusal to see and acknowledge another point of view. When I covered Congress for The Star, it was so frustrating to see smart people on both sides of the aisle so blinded by ideology that kept them bound rather than freeing them.

I guess, too, that basic human fear is really the psychological thing that holds dualism in place.

Anyway...it is so good to see you back, Ruth. That is my two cents.

2012-06-22 10:58:33

Pamela Altmeyer Alvey [unverified] said:

What a gift this discussion is...and, of course, it's one given by our friend Ruth. Welcome back!

My parents always said they were independants...but they were "Republican Independants"...which caused me to question everything very early. I had the love and support to "get political" as a kid...loved Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex...and WOW was he right. I don't recognize the Republican party anymore...and I've always supported the person who I thought capable of the best work...however, believe Stuteville is on track. Learning to work on the facts, seperate from our emotional reaction, would serve us better. People don't even vote in their own self-interest...nor do they seem to consider others, except as enemies...we're in a stage of responding to rethoric...and not even the stuff that can be verified with some factual content...just opinion, generally inflamatory. Yuck! As my good friend the former num (there's no such thing!) says..."Thank God, I'm just passin' through!"

2012-06-22 12:59:52

Miss Busybody [unverified] said:

@Hendy -- that wasn't meant as an insult.

I had in mind centuries of encyclicals and the recent slap down of the nuns.

You can't say that the church doesn't try to dictate thought!

2012-06-22 13:04:58

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

George. I appreciate your "two cents" very much. Always do. You really stretch this addled brain of mine and I appreciate your insights.

Such wise, intelligent people comment on this blog. I feel like a minor league Single-A pitcher in a Major League All-Star game :)

And Ruth?....we'll she's the greatest as Master of Ceremonies for it all.

2012-06-22 14:01:53

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

George. I appreciate your "two cents" very much. Always do. You really stretch this addled brain of mine and I appreciate your insights.

Such wise, intelligent people comment on this blog. I feel like a minor league Single-A pitcher in a Major League All-Star game :)

And Ruth?....we'll she's the greatest as Master of Ceremonies for it all.

2012-06-22 14:01:53

farm girl [unverified] said:

Having lived most of my life in alien political territory, I have observed that although I can be friends with people whose views are contrary to mine, if they knew I was not a Republican, most of them would not be friends with me...So I smile and keep my mouth shut and quietly go read Margaret and Helen...

2012-06-22 21:23:09

hendy [Member] said:


Your quote: You can't say that the church doesn't try to dictate thought!

It is the duty of every religion and political party to dictate thought. Catholics are no different, and their ostensible piety no more shameful than others save their large denial of reality.

You cite nuns, when others monotheistic memes also denigrate the role of women in their churches, mosques, and synagogues. I'm not defending Catholics, merely pointing out the fact that Catholics are only emblematic of the malaise. Sadly, there are many more. Look at the War on Women for a sample of the new unified meme and movement to control women.

2012-06-23 07:08:03

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Some years ago, I was invited (I'm protestant - Quaker) to play my musical instruments and sing at a big Charismatic Catholic national conference in Indianapolis.

I was becoming handicapped at that time, losing strength in my legs due to diabetic nerve damage and Fibromyalgia.

I saw a wooden chair right behind where the rest of the musicians were going to stand. So, I laid out my instruments and sat down on the chair.

Immediately, I noticed the priest - who was tending to some things on the other side of the platform - begin to nervously and disapprovingly make frequent glances at me. I thought that was odd, but shrugged it off.

Then, a contingent of three or four people almost rushed to where I was sitting looking as if they were having a collective panic attack.

"YOU are sitting in The Fathers' Holy Chair!!!!" the spokesperson blurted out at me in an accusing voice.

I apologized, gathered up my instruments and played music standing with my legs teetering around and in pain.

My thought since then has been this; what would Jesus think about this? Would it be a "Holy Chair" because a human being with a cleric's clothing sat there. Or, would it be a "holy chair" because mercy and grace dictated that it would be okay for a guy with physical challenges to sit on it for a spell?

There is faith and there is "religion" (rules, regulations, traditions, habits, dogmatic oppressive beliefs enforced on others, etc.) in almost every belief system. I hope what this current controversy accomplishes is that the Catholic denomination is forced to move a bit closer to faith and add just a tiny bit of distance away from constrictive "religion."

We'll see.

2012-06-23 12:52:03

Miss Busybody [unverified] said:

Ruth said: "I am grateful for the freedom (from childhood) to read, and think, whatever I chose."

You said: "It is the duty of every religion and political party to dictate thought."

Therefore, it's my contention that, as a Roman Catholic, she is NOT free to chose.

2012-06-23 15:17:50

hendy [Member] said:

You have a disconnection, @MissBusybody. The church can dictate all it wants. It's up to its adherents to decide if they want to follow. Not as many Catholics are blind or even benign adherents as you might think.

Your black-and-white view of Roman Catholicism isn't met by the test of reality. Being Catholic is *supposed* to mean (by their doctrine), universal. Much latitude is granted. There are those that would easily call someone non-Catholic for not following all the "rules" yet these people would be wrong.

Ultimately,we are *all* free to choose. You, too. Defining people by labels is disingenuous.

Those defining belief systems and dogma are defensive of it. It's their job. Their job, however, is not what disciplines people. People, themselves, are responsible for their behavior. Ruth is indeed free to choose. She chose Catholicism. I was in the same camp. I'm post-Catholic, which is different than ex-Catholic. I wasn't a slave to the doctrine, yet was a good Catholic by the definition of Catholics.

Ruth stays a Catholic despite lots of pressure otherwise. Does it mean that she's a lap dog sycophant of Catholic doctrine and dogma? Perhaps you might want to ask her for the answer, rather than presuming and prejudging the answer to it.

2012-06-24 10:35:29

Susan gillie [unverified] said:


An interesting idea, but full of shit. Ronald Reagan and my father were conservatives. They were the most sunny and optimistic people I know.

2012-06-24 20:40:02

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

It's sad when this "Reagan Revisionist HIstory" comes up. For the record, here's what we KNOW, not "remember", about Ronaldus Maximus:

He had an estranged relationship with one or more of his siblings til the day he died. His second wife was a self-centered control freak.

He spent us into oblivion. He started this "trickle down" bullshit and has two generations believing it works, despite all facts to the contrary. You cannot cut taxes and nearly-double Pentagon spending at the same time. The Generals don't know how to spend that much new money without throwing some of it on the ground. All that bravado and testosterone....too much spent on wasteful weapons systems. Tax cuts for the top tier of income-earners has never, ever worked as a true system of economic trickle-down and relief. It just leads to hoarding.

He was an affable politician, truly gifted at public speaking. But "conservative" ? Perhaps, but not pure. By any reasonable measure. Opportunistic.

There ya go Ruthie. There's your turd in the punchbowl for today.

2012-06-25 05:51:22

hendy [Member] said:

Ronald Rayguns? As a governator of California, he was great at speech suppression. Happily. Didn't make him a better guv or pres. And as TTT cites, he outran the Russians. For this reason, and only this reason, and no other reason, I cheer Rayguns. Did it take a lot of $$$$$? Oh yeah. And it cooked the Russian treasury, collapsing the Soviet Union as we know it. But today, we have the Belarussians, and the dregs of that "empire", now getting rapidly enriched with oil and natural gas money.

For a few minutes, I had the false feeling that the nuclear winter we all feared would be an era of detente instead.

But there are indeed happy conservatives, as well as liberals. They're not deluded. Each and every day you can wake up and decide to be happy. Happiness and politics are two different subjects, and are largely mutually exclusive as one must realize that correlation doesn't equal causation. I have no happy memories of Raygun, only of a chunk of the Berlin Wall that a friend of mine prizes as one of his most valuable possessions.

2012-06-25 09:25:19

hendy [Member] said:

Ok, some more: see http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/25/12402854-accidental-candor-about-voter-id for some real candor.

2012-06-25 20:16:47

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