Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thinking like the "Enemy"

I promise this blog won't be ALL about politics.

From Judith Warner's column in the New York Times. At the end she talks about how conservatives can think like liberals better than liberals can think like conservatives. I have noticed this about myself. Often with other situations, I can imagine how someone else might thing differently about something. But I have a lot of trouble trying to do this with conservatives. I do just feel like they are totally wrong and almost evil (OK, evil if they are Karl Rove or Cheney), and can't even start imagining. But it does seem like you have an advantage if you can think like the other side. It helps you think of ways to reason and argue with the other side.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view. “Liberals feel contempt for the conservative moral view, and that is very, very angering. Republicans are good at exploiting that anger,” he told me in a phone interview.

Perhaps that’s why the conservatives can so successfully get under liberals’ skin. And why liberals need to start working harder at breaking through the empathy barrier.

I can imagine someone who is anti-choice/pro-life. I can imagine a rich person wanting to keep their rich-person tax cuts. But I have trouble imagining lower or middle class Americans thinking Republicans will be good for the economy, for their lives. But maybe that's not what they are thinking at all. Maybe that is the problem.


  1. Maybe the reason is that the very essence of our country is liberal, that is, based on ideas of a liberal nature, e.g, we're all created equal, public education and social security being just a few examples. Everyone is raised and educated to believe in these ideals and rights, so they understand them. This isn't because the educational system in the US is skewed to the left, as conservatives like to say. The inherent nature of education is to be liberal; free thinking, the desire to learn and grow, freely exchange ideas.

    So, if we had a conservative based education system (that may well be an oxymoron), liberals would fully understand that viewpoint and be able to exploit it to their own advantage, the same way that the conservatives do now. But... if conservatives had been in charge during the first two centuries of this country's existence, only the rich and well-connected would have access to educational opportunities.

    I have a simple litmus test for lower/middle income so-called "conservatives". Simply ask them if they're willing to give up their own social security benefits, or a free public education for their own children. If they say "of course not!", they're really liberals clothed in conservative skins.

  2. We are also about the value of the individual. A lot of republican ideals extend from that.