Thursday, November 29, 2012

What The Republicans Did Wrong

Multiple editorials have been written on the subject I have titled in this blog post; but I have not heard the one I intend to propose, now. Mostly, we have heard that the Republicans looked like the party of big government at a time when low-income people needed jobs—this misrepresentation lived because the Democrats portrayed them that way in their TV ads. Then, again, we heard that the demographics of the nation changed to a pattern that favored a Democrat voter majority. There may be some truth to that, as I mentioned in my last blog post on “Moral Demographics Change” on 19 November. Specifically, I noted that President Obama was elected by Hispanic, low-income, female, and young voters. I also noted that I think the moral stance of the Obama voters had an impact on the election outcome. Today, I want to continue with that theme by pointing out that the Republicans did not play to their traditional moral strong points in the election; and that may have had a major effect on the election’s outcome.

A recent book by Jonathan Haidt, “The Righteous Mind,” points out in well-researched and repeatedly confirmed studies that people have six moral foundations from which they view the world. These foundations are liberty, care/harm, fairness, authority, loyalty, and sanctity.

Liberals and conservatives both consider all six of these foundations significant, but liberals are strongest on care/harm, fairness, and liberty (at least as it applies to personal civil rights). Many of them hardly consider authority, loyalty, and sanctity as being significant in their moral catalog. To a liberal, moral importance is attached to the question of “Is the proposed idea going to harm someone—especially, me (This is the care/harm foundation.)? Also, the liberal is concerned with the question, “Is this proposal fair?” As I pointed out above, liberals consider liberty mostly limited to the concerns of individuals; and that is where all the furor over civil rights for individuals comes from.

On the other hand, conservatives consider all six as being important in their thinking. But conservatives have a different bent on the question of liberty. Conservatives seem to be more concerned with the liberty of groups of people rather than with individuals. The conservative wants liberty for groups like the motivated, the hard working, the entrepreneur class, and, yes, the rich investor class. The conservative also wants liberty for the poor who are willing to work for rewards.

During the last election, Democrats sounded out strongly for the fairness and care/harm foundations, claiming that it is only fair for the rich to pay more taxes and that people are being hurt by the present health care situation in the nation. In other words, the Democrats appealed strongly to their moral foundation base.

On the Republican side, we heard a lot about the economy and joblessness. I think that that appeal was made primarily to neutralize the strong position the Democrats had in their fairness and care/harm message. But…the Republicans failed to capitalize on their much stronger position on loyalty to the nation. They failed to express the  appeal they could have made for more military and State Department authority in the Middle East where the government has largely failed to deal effectively with disorder there.  And, to compound their failures the Republicans failed to capitalize on an appeal to the Americans’ moral foundation in the matter of sanctity. For example, they failed to point out effectively the travesty against freedom of religion being made by the Democrats in implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Another area where the Republicans failed to stress their strong foundational point on authority was where they failed to emphasize the moral foundation of abiding with the law concerning immigration. They could have preached a policy of law abiding in border crossing that would have reinforced the authority of the law and at the same time would have benefited the Hispanic immigrant. Such a policy was described by me in my blog post dated 7 July 2010. (You may access that post in the left column of this blog by clicking on the date 7/04/10-7/11/10.)

Now…all that being said, how sure am I that these moral foundations had a large effect on the election—I’m not very sure. In the end, I think that the American electorate largely ignored their moral underpinnings and just voted according to naked self-interest.


1 comment:

  1. An excellent post. You state the same conclusions that I have come to. But I don't think that those two reasons are necessarily mutually exclusive. It is probably true that most people who voted did so only according to self-interest, and that is why Obama won (he offered to give people things). However, the Values Voters of 2004 have certainly not gone away completely in only 8 years. They are still there, but simply did not come out. Why should they, given Mitt Romney's Mormonism and his lack of emphasis on the issues they care most about? I think ignoring these moral foundations had the effect of skewing the electorate towards the merely self-interested.