Much of the stuff on this blog is based on the bimodal (bipolar?) view of the world: there are Conservatives and there are Liberals, and that’s it. Lakoff, Ducat, Frank and the like spend much time explaining the two, or just trying to explain the strange Conservative animals to the Liberals.
But, as I stated before, only about a third of Americans are core Conservatives and another third are core Liberals. What about the remaining third? Also, as only about a half of Americans vote, does one group or another tend to be over- or under- represented in the voting booth? Are Conservatives more likely not to vote, but Rove managed to lure them out of their lairs in sufficient numbers to win this time? Is the proportion at the polls skewing our notions of their proportion in the general population? The polls, after all, screen for “likely voters”. Who knows what is the ratio among the screened-off, the “unlikely voters”? Since the Fundies have taken over the GOP and are quickly building a fascist theocracy, it is an immediate goal of the Democratic Party, the only other powerful political force as faulty as it is, to figure out the way to save the World by getting the middle third to vote for Dems.
It is practically impossible to get the core Conservative third – they are just apparently lost to reason, for deep psychological reasons (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/12/conservatives-are-crazy-and-dangerous.html), and although they need to go visit the shrink pronto, those are the kinds of people least likely to do so, as “seeking help” is one of the emasculating “no-no’s” in their deeply femiphobic world. Thus, “moving to the Right” or appealing to the economic self-interest will take us nowhere. Before I start thinking about the “middle third”, let me give you some very smart thoughts by other people about the difference between Left and Right – please don’t be lazy to click on the links, these are worth your while:
The Progressive Agenda
Dining with the rhinos
“Rhinoceros” in America
On the possibility of getting through to the right
The Left2Right Blog Phenomenon
The dialogue continues on whether dialogue is worthwhile
This reminds me of something I wrote about 18 months ago on the Edwards primary blog:
If your party’s goal is to steal from the poor and give to the rich, and,
If there are a few rich and many poor people in the country, and,
If the power is decided by elections in which majority decides, and,
If the majority of the poor do not like the idea of giving money to the minority of the rich, then,
The only way to get elected is to lie.
So, now that you have enjoyed a few minutes of sound logical explanations (snark) why Left is right and Right is wrong (and evil), let’s try to look at the Middle and especially at Libertarians.
Lakoff explains the Conservative and the Liberal core models in terms of family models applied to the Government. The Conservatives are raised in Strict Father families and they like a Strict Father government, while Liberals are raised in Nurturant Parent families and like a Nurturant Parent government. According to Lakoff, there are no Moderates, there are only people (Independents, Undecideds?) who are capable of switching between the two modes and/or use both modes in different areas of life [he also mentions the rare animal – the pragmatic: someone who is firmly conservative or liberal but is capable of making compromises in short term in order to attain long-term goals. I guess I am a liberal pragmatist in a way: http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/12/in-defense-of-pragmatism.html]. Thus, invocation of 9/11, War on Terror and the Politics of Fear invoked the Strict Father model in most of them, thus Bush won. The Democratic Party, in order to win, needs to trigger the Nurturant Parent model instead, which is exactly NOT possible to do by triangulation, appeasement, and caving in to macho foreign policy, anti-abortion, or whatever right-wing agenda has been proposed for adoption by Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the DLC cretins.
Libertarians, according to Lakoff, are on a far-off radial deviation from the Conservative core. Many prominent libertarians (e.g., Dan Drezner, Mike Munger) did not like, nor did they vote for Bush as far as I know, but they could not stomach Kerry either. Thus, libertarians are essentially conservative and retain the conservative core in economic sphere, while they have also adopted some aspects of the liberal core, particularly in the social sphere. Thought this way, the libertarians are just one special case of the Independents in the middle third.
But there is another lurking question: do the in-betweens, including libertarians, frame the government in the family mode? Ducat thinks they do. He explains it through the psychoanalytic term of “transference”. Every adult feels transference towards the government in one way or another: conservatives like the abusive father and despise the loving mother, both in their personal lives and in their view of the government, which is clearly pathological. Liberals, on the other hand, want to put a restraining order on the abusive father and love their loving mother, both in personal lives and in government, quite a rational thing to do. People in the middle, the Undecideds, want both – they want their government to be both like a harsh father and like a loving mother. They want both the ‘daddy state’ and the ‘mommy state’, and are always grumbling how there is no real choice between the two parties in American politics because the two parties are such polar opposites: one provides pure testosterone, the other oozes estrogen (or is presented, actually erroneously, to do so), and the Independents are not happy with having just one or the other. How would they like a testosterone-laden Democratic party? Not at all, as it would be a ‘daddy party’ in which daddy is not as strong, in other words GOP daddy beats Dem daddy every time. Unfortunately, due to the GOP propaganda, they do not see that Liberal worldview is not “mommy” model, which I have explained at length before (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/09/nurturant-is-not-coddly.html).
“Democrats, especially those who identify as liberal or
progressive, tend to see the ‘maternal’, caretaking functions of government as
most important. Thus, when out of power, they have a negative paternal
transference to the government, which can be seen as a malevolent, abusive
father.” (“The Wimp Factor”, p.237)
When Republicans are out of power, they have a negative maternal transference to the government, as they see it as a weak, ineffective mother. Thus they rail against the government. Once they assume power, they change its facade – it is a phallic macho government now, so it is good. “No more national nanny – daddy’s in charge now”.
But here is something interesting. Ducat separates Libertarians from the rest of the Undecided herd and explains them in a separate manner:
“Libertarians, on the other hand, seem to attribute both
negative maternal and paternal qualities to the government, and insist they need
neither love nor the law from those who hold public office”.(p.237)
OK, now this all sounds like types of teenage rebellion. Some rebel against the father, especially if he is a disciplinarian, some against the mother, especially if she is an ineffective as a disciplinarian, some retain good relations with both, and some very unhappy ones rebel against both. When is everyone going to grow up and come back home for Thanksgiving?
Suddenly, instead of two, we have four models of family-type transference of the government. Where do they come from? How are they caused?
Both Lakoff and Ducat think in term of fathers and their influence on their sons’ gender-based emotional health and, connected to this, the political/ideological orientation. Sometimes, it gets a bit fuzzy what they are talking about. Let me try to develop this further.
Strict Father has quite a range of meanings, from the most colloquial sense of “strict”, through Dobsonian sense of harsh, to the legal sense of abusive. This is a broad range and apparently, the differences matter. According to various longitudinal studies, the regular Joe-Sixpack Strict Father does not have the same effect as an abusive father. Both result in very negative outcomes, both socially and politically, but the abusive father is much worse than strict father. The individual responses of children will vary depending on genetics, the birth order, the behavior of the mother, siblings and other family members, and the existence (and quality) of the peer support group (e.g., gangs vs. sports teams) as well as broader society (e.g, school).
But, Strict Father and Nurturant Father are not the only types. There are also the Indiffent/Uninvolved Father (the next better model after Strict Father in terms of long-term outcomes), and the Indulgent/Permissive Father (the next better, just short of Nurturant Father in long-term outcomes). So, there are four basic types of fathers. Add to that the Absent Father, and the family consisting of Two Gay Fathers (of different dispositions/childrearing styles) and it gets quite complex.
Now add to that complexity the role of the Mother, not much developed in either Lakoff’s or Ducat’s work. Strict Mother, Indifferent Mother, Permissive Mother, Nurturant Mother, Absent Mother, Two Mothers…how about a mother who is passive when daddy’s around but a tyrant when he’s gone? Each of the Mother and Father types may be alone as a single parent, or may be paired with each of the types of the other parent. Some combinations (e.g., Strict Father – Permissive Mother, or Nurturant Father – Nurturant Mother) may happen more often as such personalities would be drawn to each other, but it is safe to say that all combinations exist in various proportions.
How does each one of these combinations affect the kids? How does it affect the Eldest Son, Crown Prince, Heir of the Family Farm/Castle? How does it affect middle and younger sons? How does is affect daughters? Are different types of parents treating sons and daughters differently, while other types are more egalitarian? How come abusive fathering results in conservative sons and liberal daughters?
And, for Christ’s sakes, can anyone explain Ann Coulter!@#$%^&? I am not sure, but I guess that she is not, has never been, and never will be married, or even in a serious relationship with another man. Which man wants his head chewed off after copulation? I am afraid of even thinking what kind of stuff she keeps in her bedroom for her amusement and satisfaction: some chains, police batons, stainless-steel spiky dildos, hand-held jack-hammers? (sorry for the disturbing imagery this may have caused in some of you). Here is how Freepers themselves describe Phyllis Schlafly: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2185/is_6_14/ai_106649708 , but Phyllis is nothing compared to Ann. Next to Ann Coulter, Cruella DeVille emits warm and fuzzy feelings of Merry Poppins – and Ann is not a cartoon character, she is a real person, or perhaps she is a robot designed at The Heritage Institute. It is unbelievable what venom this woman possesses and spits – worse than any man I have ever met (http://www.reload.ws/blog/mkac.htm). What’s her story? How can a psychiatrist explain the phenomenon? Lakoff does not even try, and Ducat’s explanation is a non-explanation, something about being rich and being on a power-trip. I do not buy it. This is some serious disturbance.
This whole post, although I meant to write it for quite a while now, was prompted by this post by my state-mate and Libertarian Chair of Duke’s Poli-Sci Department, Mike Munger, who links to me with humor and expected disapproval:
Here’s another example of the need for clear-cut definitions of terms. As Libertarians are an offshoot of the Conservative core, they are officially part of the mathematical set called “Conservatives”, as they are clearly not the members of the only other set, the “Liberals”. Yet, when I write about Conservatives, I write about the CORE Conservatives, people like these: http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/12/hypocrisy-or-natural-order-of-things.html, or these: http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/09/war-of-worlds.html. When I write about Conservatives, I do not think of Munger – why should I even have his blog on my blogroll? I read his blog and, though I generally disagree, at least his arguments have internal logic, make sense and are peppered with charming sarcastic sense of humor. How can I think he’s a nut when he is the source of Coulter-mocking stuff like this: http://www.townhall.com/acimgs/webimages/gun.jpg.
If you want to see the scary Conservatives, go to the online asylum called Free Republic, or the worse one called Little Green Footballs (sorry, no links, I don’t want spam here). On the other hand, I would love to have some coffee with Munger one of these days, I bet he is as fun guy in person as he is online.
Some interesting links:
Libertarianism Makes You Stupid
Critiques Of Libertarianism