Friday, January 29, 2016

Practical Application of Haidt

It occurred to me that I hadn’t given any consideration to the practical application of Haidt’s 6 moral foundations to the current presidential primary campaigns. First, the Democrats, just because Bernie jumps off the page here.

Sanders’s foundational appeal is abundantly clear.  His campaign to date has mostly hit the fairness/cheating bell, repeatedly and loudly.  That a few people are very rich means they have cheated, and he is quite blunt about the system being rigged. This is one of the two main foundations for liberals, and however hard Hillary tries to match him on this, she’s not going to come close, because of her own wealth, and the perception that she abuses her positions and office for her own gain. The best she can hope for is to neutralize this foundation by being “good enough” on the economic fairness, trying hard to pick off support from specific groups that believe they are being treated unfairly, and leaning hard on the fairness aspect of “it’s about time we had a woman as president.” Bernie mostly says “We’re all being treated unfairly, except the 1%.”  It’s working.

On the foundation of care and harm they may be more equal.  Sanders wants people to have things, to be cared for by the government more than now, but Clinton has been at this longer and her voters trust her on this. Interestingly, both are stressing what largess all Americans are going to be eligible for – read Middle Class – not just designated groups. However, Clinton straddles this far better than Sanders, and she calculates that people who want their group to be specially noted for being treated unfairly will prefer her. On that score, she is also far more aware than Bernie that while enthusiasm can get you launched, the voter only has to like you 1% better on the final day.

Here is an interesting twist.  Both are attempting to play loyalty cards as well, which is supposed to be a conservative foundation.  Bernie’s Simon and Garfunkel ad “…all come to look for America” gives instant patriotism permission to all the cynics.  It’s very much a Jack Kennedy New Frontier appeal, and that song is more effective than both Bill Clinton’s and Obama’s “hope” appeals, because those always carried an undertone of “paying the other bastards back.” Sanders has only a very few people he wants to pay back.  I wonder if that whole-tribe America appeal might actually be sanctity instead of loyalty. Since Sanders is notably restrictionist on immigration (though we have noted that his supporters aren’t aware of this, and he may be waffling again), there might be some unconscious us/them appeal on that level as well. Or even consciously hinting at that, not that they’d tell Bernie.  But some of these political video producers are pretty clever. Even I was moved by it.
Hillary’s constant hint to her supporters is “Hey, I’ve been loyal to you (black people, women, gays, elites, lobbyists) all these years, so you should be loyal to me.”  Anyone with a memory knows that’s not true in any of those cases, but it’s half-true, and the associated, rather menacing hint is “Well, but I have the strength to protect you and Bernie doesn’t.”

I’m not seeing authority/subversion issues anywhere in the campaign. (Liberals don’t tend to stress than until after they are in office.)  Whatever liberty/oppression bells are being rung are better described under fairness/cheating.

On to the Republicans in the next post.  They look muddier (as would be expected with more foundations to attend to), but I think that Trump is focusing his campaign on some sort of proportional fairness. If you want to get in and offer your opinions on that before I get mine in, fine.

1 comment:

james said...

To comment intelligently would require that I spend a fair bit of time reading what the candidates actually said and did over the past few years. Walker I know something about, naturally, but I wasn't listening to his campaign. I watched a long interview with Carson about one of his books, and that's about it. Trump has been making noise for years (in ways that don't inspire trust), but I haven't read up on what he's actually been saying, as opposed to the thin slices that get reported.

A rational actor would notice that most of this research would be wasted, since by the time Wisconsin votes most decisions have already been made.