Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Simpler, not better

Janeane Garofalo once said that being a Republican today isn't an opinion, it's a character flaw.

Not that conservatives don't say much worse things about progressives. Still, Garofalo's comment is another data point consistent with what we're learning about the links between political opinion, genetics and personality.

The Republicans have been focusing on so-called "wedge" issues like gay rights, stem cell research, and government displays of Christianity. These are issues that aren't that important from a day-to-day, operational point of view, but can stir political passions. Without these issues, the Republicans know that they cannot win elections.

Wedge issues work because they activate deep emotional triggers in our basic character make-up. Reason and logic no longer apply, and each side in the political debate has an increasingly difficult time understanding the other. A mountain of facts tells us that Bush's presidency has been an unmitigated disaster, yet most conservatives love the man in spite of the facts. You can no more convince them that Bush's policies are wrong on technical grounds, than convince me to give up my crush on Fran Drescher.

Many political pundits say the 2004 election was about values. The term "values" wrongly suggests that the right's political passion has something to do with reason or enlightenment. Perhaps, "character traits" would be a better term.

It has only recently occurred to me (duh!) that Republicans don't actually want to make life better, they want to make life simpler. For those on the right, life is already good, but it's complicated. As they see it, all our problems showed up when a) we stopped living like survivalists, b) men stopped being men, c) and women left the kitchen. New-fangled things like political correctness and the social safety net made things better at the expense of simplicity. These are the "values" they fight for. Like a fool, I sit here arguing for policies that will result in the exact opposite of what they want: a better world in which animal instinct doesn't dictate our actions.

George Lakoff claims that,unless we can frame our policies in the values of our target audience, facts and reason will just bounce off.

Can we frame a better world as a simpler world?

1 comment:

rob said...

I ain't buying it, Doc.
Except for the part about Fran Drescher that is.