Friday, October 02, 2009

The Democratic Achilles' Heel - A Tale of Two Worldviews

 From the Onion on Facebook -

BREAKING: Democrats Hoping To Take Control Of Congress From Republican Minority In 2010

What up, Dems?

Setting aside the fact that many Dems (particularly Blue Dogs) have been lobbied hard enough (and contributed to highly enough) by the insurance, for-profit health and pharmaceutical industries that they are not in a position to challenge them, but are merely attempting to placate them without threatening their right to continued dominance and profiteering, the fact remains that the Democrats' Achilles' heel is their tendency to seek accord and common ground (or 'bipartisan support') when their opponents have no such intention.

If you look at it from a framing perspective, the 'nurturant parent' model upon which progressives tend to base their worldview values consensus as the way to make decisions, not hierarchy and authority. And, while not perfect by any means, this is basically our approach as a nation - democracy, I think it's called.

This is our strength and it is also our weakness, because Republicans, as a conservative body, tend towards an authoritarian, winner-take-all approach which seeks to dominate rather than compromise. Democrats reach out across the aisle because they believe that everyone is entitled to have their input considered - and they also believe that if they give, they'll get. This is in contrast to Republicans, who have shown time and time again that they regard that sort of thing as weakness, and respond to bipartisan overtures with even more aggressive refusal to budge. This they see as 'standing on principle'.

I see each worldview as having two components - the left/liberal worldview composed of the 'nurturant parent' frame and the 'hunter' social aspect, and the right/conservative worldview consisting of the 'strict father' frame and the 'farmer' social aspect. I don't see the two components as contradictions but as the 'leader/follower' or 'hard/soft' sides of each worldview. (And, as I always qualify when talking about this, real human beings have attributes of both left and right; but for most people, one or the other aspect tends to take precedence when it comes to choosing a political viewpoint.)

On the left model, the 'nurturant parent' view of how to run a society is formed by the 'hunter' social aspect, or, to be more specific, the hunter/gatherer social aspect, which was how society was arranged before we developed an agricultural society. This society tended to be governed by consensus rather than top-down authority; there were nominal 'leaders' but they did not 'rule' in an authoritarian fashion. The governing style was 'soft' rather than 'hard', but there was more individual autonomy within the society, and the 'hard' aspect came from the necessity for individuals to be risk-takers and aggressive in order to survive as hunters and feed their people as well as defend themselves from predatory or dangerous animals. A hunter/gatherer society was also communal and relatively non-acquisitive, as food could not be stored but must be consumed as it was killed or found, and one animal was no use to hoard, since it could not be eaten entirely by one person nor 'saved for later'. Since many hunter/gatherer societies were nomadic, the idea of ownership was rather vague, and did not require a harsh authority to control and protect property.

On the right model, the 'strict father' view is derived from the need for an agricultural society to operate along very specific lines. There is no 'wiggle room' with planting and harvesting; it must be done exactly so, and to deviate in any way will mean starvation. These rules are imposed by nature rather than other humans or animals; thus it cannot be argued or negotiated with, but must be accepted - the penalty for disobedience is death - starvation. This requires a kind of unquestioning obedience that was not as important to a hunter society. It was the advent of agriculture which also brought with it the necessity for ownership and property - to grow food, you must possess land to grow it on, and make a long-term commitment. Being attached to a certain piece of land brought with it the necessity to defend it, not just from animals or the elements, but other humans. These factors brought about an authoritarian mindset as a means of survival - the combination of obedience and dominance in a hierarchical setting. So while the 'soft' aspect of the society presents as obedience to authority, the 'hard' aspect is the governing authority which is a black-and-white, win-or-lose idea, where the idea of authority emanates from its position rather than its function. Authority for authority's sake is the overriding principle, so logic and reason are not as important as obedience.

This is why the contradictions and hypocrisies of the Republican approach don't bother them at all, because the facts are not the issue; the obedience to those in charge of the viewpoint is what matters. I would say 'party' but it isn't so much the Republican Party itself as those who present themselves as the kind of right-wing authoritarian leaders that authoritarian followers accept and are drawn to. Some are within the party leadership, and some are not, such as the hate-mongers like Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck. Not just anyone in a position of leadership can reach real authoritarian followers - obviously, they do not accept the President of the United States as their leader! Actually, they thrive on those contradictions and hypocrisies, because that means that they are even more obedient if they obey in the face of those glaring inconsistencies - and the more obedient they are, the more secure they feel.

Two hallmarks of the conservative mindset are resistance to change and acceptance of inequality. We see both of these traits from the Republican side in the healthcare debate. But - not all conservatives are authoritarians, and not all authoritarians are conservatives! What we are hearing from mostly right now is the rabid authoritarians - the followers, the leaders, and what Dr. Robert Altemeyer calls the 'double-highs' - those who score high for both authoritarianism and social domination. Dr. Altemeyer's definition of the authoritarian personality is one who exhibits:
1) a high degree of submission to the established, legitimate authorities in
their society;
2) high levels of aggression in the name of their authorities; and
3) a high level of conventionalism.
There are conservatives who do not exhibit the authoritarian aspect, but they are increasingly being marginalized as not 'ideologically in step', and the Republican Party is controlled for the most part by authoritarian conservatives. This works out well for the real 'powers that be', the corporatocracy, because resistance to change works in their favor, since they are currently in charge, and acceptance of inequality works in their favor as well - for obvious reasons.

So we see that most of the rhetoric coming from the Republicans is from the authoritarians - those who unquestioningly follow the directives of their accepted leaders, and who are aggressively hostile to those people and ideas to whom their leaders object.

Conservatives and liberals can have a dialogue. Authoritarians and liberals cannot.

And this is why Dems get their asses handed to them on a regular basis - even when they are in power! Because they cannot find it within themselves to change the tactics they are used to, and keep treating the Republicans as though they are seeking the same things - consensus instead of domination. When a Dem with cojones enough to stand up to these thugs comes along, like Alan Grayson, they practically pee all over themselves.

Democrats (at least, those who aren't enmeshed in the sticky webs of the Washington insider/lobbyist culture, unable to move) need to get in touch with the 'hard' aspect of their worldview - the individualistic, risk-taking, 'hunter' side of their natures - or we will continue to have an aggressive, reality-challenged minority dictating its destructive will to the rest of the country. Dems - the Republicans as they stand today are never going to budge, and and the more you roll over and give away the store in hopes that they will respond in kind, the more they are going to take without giving anything in return, and the more they will disrespect you as weak and unprincipled.

Seeking common ground and compromise only works when both parties are on board. It's already been tried, and tried, and tried again, with the same results. Time to put your big-boy boots on, Achilles. Is Alan Grayson the only Dem who knows that the only way to deal with a Republican bully is to stand up to him?

Update - Melanie has a post with some thoughts on the same subject - very interesting.


Mel said...

I've been thinking lately about how a person can approach authoritarian people - whether it is even possible - and, poof, along comes your article. Perfect timing.

Jolly Roger said...

The "blue dick" shills are going to have to be ignored, and it can certainly be done. Having them as dems really doesn't help get anything done, so why bother with them at all?

Alicia Morgan said...

Hi Melanie - I myself don't think they're particularly amenable to persuasion - at least not by someone like me. I think some authoritarian types can change viewpoints; usually due to some kind of powerful personal experience - but I don't think it happens very often. Even less common is their viewpoint changing because of an argument made by a liberal.

That's why I feel that my energy is better spent trying to educate progressive-minded but politically-inactive people, rather than change the minds of die-hard conservatives. It's better to know what challenges you can win and concentrate on them, than spending time and emotion on something that is not going to bear fruit.

If enough progressives get on board and get involved in the issues in front of us, we will prevail - without having to 'convert' conservatives. They will draw their own conclusions no matter what. I firmly believe we are in the majority, but a small group of shrill wingnuts has taken control of the discourse and we are in big trouble because of it.

I think that, instead of trying to reach conservatives, I try to concentrate on engaging people that are progressive-minded but don't see the need to be aware or involved in politics - my friends, neighbors, family. There are people who love to take on the other side, and are really good at it; but I'm not one of them, and I also do not see any conservatives who have 'seen the light' after a beat-down, no matter how much their arguments are refuted by fact.

But - that's just my take - YMMV. I'm glad you stopped by.

Alicia Morgan said...

JR - I get so frustrated at the Blue Dogs and their corporate-loving ways. That's why a real Democrat is inspiring. I'm just a stone populist, I guess, and believe in that old=fashioned crap like "we the people"...

opit said...

I think you too are being somewhat disingenuous. Any lady who writes a book on the topic of organized media misrepresentation of the facts has to be coming towards a recognition of domestic/international psyops as a fact.
Sometimes one will get a hint in comments from those who are mostly quiet that the great 'Left Wing Conspiracy' only needs rebranding to include the Ron Paul Brigade and progressives.
YouTube is an absolute fountain of information on the New World Order and the Fed.
Myself, I have stopped resisting. I will at least read the submissions of those outraged by nonsensical situations rather than seriously considering the drivel of pundits promulgating a facade.

Mel said...

You helped inspire a new post.


Alicia Morgan said...

Cool, Melanie! I'm adding the link to my original post.

Distributorcap said...

what we have is that there are really NO parties - rather philosophies and ideologies that disguise themselves in parties.

presonally i think the two 'party' system we have is about the worst political system on the planet - bar none. in many ways (and i will get slammed for this) - unitary rule is better. because all ideologies are forced to choose between one side or another (mostly for financial support and cover) - the people with the dominant personalities (authoritarians in this case) tend to dominate. and the rest - well they get drowned out.

a vibrant political system is one where everyone can somehow express what they want -- even if it is not well received. also the two party system, depending on who is in charge - forces people to quash or silence some of their dissent -- you are NOT allowed to be a republican and pro-choice.

then again, in the end the only party that counts is the one with Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Grant and Franklin. that green party.