closing the sacredness gap

There is a conjunction, a point of inflection between morality and emotion that translates itself into the political sphere in an almost predictable yet unsettling fashion. Its a zone where we can explain conservative electoral success while at the same time self-congratulating liberals convince themselves that they hold lofty moral ground with little or nothing to learn from other ideologies, particularly the American and Canadian right. It comes down to what is determined to be objective moral reality and here, there is a clear and dominant preference for a clear vision of a moral order.

Read More: Tabatha Southey:Sometimes it feels as if Stephen Harper is like the guy you date for four years and then, one day, you look up and say, “Good god, I guess that makes him my boyfriend!” There was even a moment during the debates when he brought up the whole four-year thing and the majority and I thought, “Wow, did Stephen Harper just ask us to move in with him?” Well, that's what Canada did.

This rift seemed to take its present form in response to the French Revolution and became cemented in the liberalism of John Stuart Mill: In response to criticism of Price in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), ( Mary) Wollstonecraft immediately wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men. This work was overshadowed by another response to Burke, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, which followed several months later. In Rights of Men Wollstonecraft presented her vision of a society, based upon equality of opportunity, in which talent—not the wrongful privileges of gentility—would be the requisite for success. Paine and Wollstonecraft were accused in the press of seeking to “poison and inflame the minds of the lower class of his Majesty’s subjects to violate their subordination.” When Paine was later burnt in effigy for his support of Revolutionary France, there was public talk of subjecting Wollstonecraft to the same treatment. Read More:

read more:'s my alternative definition: morality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness, two of which are most relevant for understanding what Democrats don't understand about morality.---

Jonathan Haidt:Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies? We psychologists have been examining the origins of ideology ever since Hitler sent us Germany’s best psychologists, and we long ago reported that strict parenting and a variety of personal insecurities work together to turn people against liberalism, diversity, and progress. But now that we can map the brains, genes, and unconscious attitudes of conservatives, we have refined our diagnosis: conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world. Read More:

image: ---In The Political Brain, Drew Westen points out that the Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating not just the issues of God, faith, and religion, but also the sacred symbols of the nation such as the Flag and the military. The Democrats, in the process, have become the party of the profane—of secular life and material interests. Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don't understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.---

That’s a question in which the financial crisis provides the best springboard. The financial sector received a huge bailout, and instead of acting like they learned something and it won’t arise again, they have become even greedier. In the U.S. and Canada, the same citizens who rescued them are now paying the ongoing costs through cuts in services and tax increases. The anger and disgust has been trying to express itself where possible. In the U.S. through the Tea Party and in Canada with an New Democratic Party, leftist opposition. So, economic depravity and an inequitable distribution of the spoils is in part, the cause; the tyranny of the minority that exerts itself no matter who is in power. We can try to understand why the right votes as it does, but at the same time, they are also getting very little representation except a few small bones to gnaw on.

David Hume’s dictum that reason is “the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them.” This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion…. Drawing on Shweder’s ideas, I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way…

image: Read More: think that welfare programs and feminism increase rates of single motherhood and weaken the traditional social structures that compel men to support their own children? Hmm, that may be true, even if there are also many good effects of liberating women from dependence on men. I had escaped from my prior partisan mindset (reject first, ask rhetorical questions later), and began to think about liberal and conservative policies as manifestations of deeply conflicting but equally heartfelt visions of the good society.---

When Republicans say that Democrats “just don’t get it,” this is the “it” to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label “elitist.” But how can Democrats learn to see—let alone respect—a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?…Read More:

Read More:— Durkheim long ago said that God is really society projected up into the heavens, a collective delusion that enables collectives to exist, suppress selfishness, and endure. The three Durkheimian foundations (ingroup, authority, and purity) play a crucial role in most religions. When they are banished entirely from political life, what remains is a nation of individuals striving to maximize utility while respecting the rules. What remains is a cold but fair social contract, which can easily degenerate into a nation of shoppers.—

Haidt:The Democrats could close much of the gap if they simply learned to see society not just as a collection of individuals—each with a panoply of rights–but as an entity in itself, an entity that needs some tending and caring. Our national motto is e pluribus unum (“from many, one”). Whenever Democr

support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum. They widen the sacredness gap. Read More:

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