My admiration for Jonathan Haidt is high, and he will figure prominently in an upcoming post. However I have always objected to his contention that liberals stress only two of the moral foundations, while conservatives stress all six more equally. I find that liberals stress disgust/purity a great deal, and the remaining three foundations more than he credits. I think his original research focused on things that were more likely to elicit a purity/disgust response from conservatives, and had he asked about other items we would see a greater consonance. Food or environmental concerns, for example, are often framed in terms of disgust. Some things disgust most human beings, others are more variable.
The current election is bearing me out. Disgust is absolutely a moral foundation in play in liberals’ – and not them exclusively – rejection of Donald Trump. That was even more strongly in play this past weekend, when a recording of him talking about groping women, with more graphic and vulgar terms than has been usual even for him, surfaced. After what we saw this weekend, don’t tell me liberals aren’t motivated by disgust. Which is fine, BTW. I agree with them on this disgust. The only way it could have lessened was with a really good apology geared to quieting disgust, and Trump didn’t come close to achieving that.
His defenders moved to highlight equivalences with a previous vice-president and more especially, a recent president, both Democrats, who had not been treated with the same rejection by Democrats that Trump is receiving.* But in making that comparison they moved off the Disgust foundation to the Fairness foundation. Different rules apply there. Ironically, Fairness is the least fair of the foundations, as events are easy to rationalize in any direction, to make them look more similar or less similar. Disgust is more automatic, harder to get around.
Yes, it is objectively far worse that Bill Clinton raped women, and that Hillary was party to the silencing and discrediting of them. If you could get those matters before Martian judges evaluating fairness, you would win hands down. That this does not happen is infuriating to all those who believe that it would, except for media bias. Perhaps so, but only in part. People will minimize the sins of their tribesmen and maximize the guilt of their opponents quite well even without help from media sources.
Either way, Bill Clinton’s raping of women is not much imagined by his supporters, and the few surviving quotes and descriptions that might elicit disgust may not even be known to them. “You better put some ice on that” seems to show up mostly in the conservative press. Hillary’s creating of the “War Room” is even less in their minds, eventhough the story has credible backers. It is a convenience that virtually all groups and individuals use. If someone doesn’t admit guilt, then you can keep up the charade that they didn’t “really” do it. Even a conviction in a court of law is not a guarantee that they will abandon you. And absent a formal conviction or a confession, no amount of evidence will convince some people. That’s not just liberals, that’s human nature.
Thus, disgust is taken out of the picture, and the argument to hypocrisy moves to the more malleable Fairness foundation. Apples and oranges.
I wonder how it all fits with the concept of embarrassment as a moral disqualifier. It shouldn't be that deeply related, but the complaints about Trump's vulgarity come as a package with shudders about his hair, and his facial expressions. Well, small sample size on that: on my FB feed and where I work there are plenty of mini-rants about how infuriating it is to listen to him and look at him - grown women talking like sophomore girls. Worse, that is what attracts all their energy, though they are educated enough to develop a coherent argument based on policy and principles. Lord knows Trump supplies enough material to not have to be distracted into discussing how he is just such an impossible man. I don't get it.
*One more example of people rewriting their own histories to suit their needs. Every woman I read this year who addressed the issue of Bill Clinton 1996-1998 claimed that she had greatly disapproved of his actions then. Yet they recalled only Monica Lewisnky and minimized the events as mere cheating on his wife. No settlement with Paula Jones, no Linda Tripp, no Vernon Jordan, no perjury was remembered. Also, his popularity among women rose starting in 1996, peaked in 1998 and did not drop until the middle of 1999, when it dropped among everyone. One wonders what form their disapproval took, then.