Monday, September 22, 2008


Over at The Edge, there is an essay by psychologist Jonathan Haidt on "why people vote Republican," even when it's apparently against their economic self-interest to do so. Haidt argues, in a nutshell, that the Republican party's perceived value system appeals to those who emphasize what he calls Durkheimian moral sentiments relating to collective solidarity, group loyalty, self-abnegation, and so on. (I'm truncating it more than a bit, so read the whole thing if interested.)
The Haidt piece is followed by comments from several people. The most depressing comment is by Roger Schank, a computer scientist and psychologist, formerly professor at Northwestern and Yale. An excerpt:

"When I travel, I live the life of an intellectual. In Florida, I hang out with jocks and retirees. I try not to talk politics with them. When it happens that I have no choice but to hear what they think about politics I take note of it. Here is what I have heard:

Obama is a Muslim. His pastor hates America. In fact nearly everyone outside of America hates America. If you travel outside of America, go on a cruise, so you won't have to eat whatever it is one eats in those places. You don't want to talk to the people either, but that’s not a problem because none of them speak English. And, anyway they all hate us for our freedoms. Obama will put Al Sharpton in the cabinet. Dick Cheney was the greatest Vice President in history. The Jews are running the country anyway.

I am not making this up. This is not a caricature. I wish I carried a tape recorder.

It is common to make the assumption that people are thinking when they vote and they are making reasoned choices. I harbor no such illusion. No argument I have ever gotten into with these people (despite avoiding talking to them, I sometimes can't resist saying something true) has ever convinced anyone of anything. They are not reasoning, nor do they want to try. They simply believe what they believe."

He goes on to observe that most people are not encouraged to think when they are children, so we shouldn't expect them to think when they are adults. And there's more in this vein.

Well, I hope his sample of Florida voters is not representative of the whole state's electorate. Beyond that I'm (temporarily) speechless.


hank_F_M said...

Carictures are funny.

In the break room at lunch I learn that George Bush has the intelligence of monkey except when he is doing something diaboical, then he is a genius. Both of these people comining from the mouths of the same people.

hank_F_M said...


Both these comments coming from mouths of the same people.

LFC said...

OK. Except that the person I am quoting here insists he's not caricaturing, but rather simply reporting what he's heard.

hank_F_M said...

Not your usual fare

but a book on the same subject from a different perspective.

"Conflict of Visions" by Thomas Sowell.

It is descriptive not prescriptive and he makes a valient and mostly succcessful effort to keep a balanced appoach.

But when you listent to leaders from both sides you can hear his ideal types in how they make their points. I found it useful to be able to see and give good faith to the other side even though I disagree.