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ProfessorPlum's Journal
ProfessorPlum's Journal
February 9, 2017

Why and How Democrats need to attack Trump's loyalty, authority, and sanctity

I was reminded this week about a great book I read last year - Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". In it, he showed that while humans have five essential morality axes


(with Liberty/Oppression as a proposed sixth axis)

What's interesting is that liberal/progressive people really really value Care and Fairness, and don't really worry about the other three, conservatives value all five roughly equally.

It's why there is the fundamental divide in our world views. For instance, a liberal thinks about a homosexual couple and feels that no one is being harmed by them, so go for it! A conservative thinks about a homosexual couple and his Sanctity bells go off. It just isn't right (for the conservative).

I was going to write a post about how Democrats need to get so much smarter with their messaging and start supporting progressive policies in the language of Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity that the conservatives would understand. Move their emotions, not their intellects.

But then I found that Haidt had already addressed this a bit this week:

I think there are two main approaches. The first links to deep moral intuitions about fairness versus cheating and exploitation. Trump presents himself as a successful businessman. But a good businessman creates positive-sum interactions. He leaves a long trail of satisfied customers who want to buy from him again, and a long trail of satisfied partners who want to work with him again. Trump has not done this. He thinks about everything as a zero sum interaction, which he usually wins — and therefore the person who dealt with him loses. I think the Democrats should give voice to a long parade of people — former customers and partners — who deeply regret dealing with Trump. Trump cheats, exploits, deceives. Trump is a con-man, and we are his biggest mark yet. Don’t let him turn us all into suckers.

The second approach is to link to moral intuitions about loyalty, authority, and sanctity. These are the moral foundations that authoritarians and ultra-nationalists generally appeal to, and Trump sure did this in his convention speech. But these can be turned against him too. Trump talks about patriotism (a form of loyalty), but he seems to be pals with one of our main adversaries (Putin) while telling our friends in the Baltics that we may not defend them. In these ways he brings shame to America and weakens our stature among our friends. The moral importance of authority is in part that it creates order, and Trump talks a great deal about law and order, yet he is the chaos candidate who will throw America into constant constitutional crises, throw the world into recession, and throw our alliances into disarray. The moral importance of sanctity is that it brings dignity and exaltation to people, places, and institutions that can unite people who worship things in common. The psychology of sacredness evolved as part of our religious nature, but people use the same psychology toward kings, the constitution, national heroes, and, to a decreasing degree, to the American presidency. Trump degrades it all with his crassness, his obscene language, his fear-mongering and his inability to offer soaring rhetoric. What a contrast with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Reagan.

It's excellent advice, and Democrats need to think this way - strike out at conservative voters through their emotions, and you'll finally be talking to them the way they understand. With their guts.

February 9, 2017

It still astounds me how dangerous propaganda is just allowed to run rampant in this country

Should I even be surprised any more?

I was once having an email conversation with a conservative. This was shortly after Obama's election, and coincidentally around the same time the debt and deficit suddenly had become very important to conservatives. He was complaining about the deficit and blaming it on Obama. Remember, this was right after the world global economy had collapsed from fraud in the housing market, and Bush's two mostly off-the-books wars had drained the treasury.

Anyway, I found a site that had the debt figures for all of the presidents from Carter to Obama. I calculated the amounts added to the debt under each term, being careful to use the fiscal year cutoffs for budgets that had been signed by each president. I was able to show that by year, the GOP presidents WAY outspent Carter and Clinton, and that the Bush's between them were by far the drunken sailors of spending.

He finally admitted the numbers were correct, I guess, but continued to rant about Obama's reckless spending. It was clear his anger was being fueled by Fox "news" and other right wing sources. Finally I asked him, "those people are LYING to you. Doesn't that make you angry"? It didn't, of course. He was happy to be lied to.

Conservatives and authoritarians rely on their followers not being able to tell lies from the truth, not identifying sources that constantly lie to them, believing whatever bucket of chum is served up to their gullible maws.

Which is why what happened last week was so chilling.

The president's spokesliar stood in front of a room full of reporters and said that Iran had committed "hostile actions" against "our navy vessel".

It turns out that by "Iran", he really meant rebels in Yemen. And by "our navy vessel" he meant a Saudi Arabian ship. This is the kind of lie and misdirection that starts wars under false pretense. And I think back to my emails with my conservative friend, who couldn't tell or didn't care that he was being lied to, and realize that there is very little we can do to hold up the truth.

February 7, 2017

GREAT advice for Democrats: Keep it simple, and take credit! Like FDR


So what to do? No more savings accounts, no more cleverly hidden help that people won’t even notice, no more tax-preferenced, means-tested, government-monitored, website-reliant, bronze/gold/platinum-benefits-so-long-as-you-apply-during-open-enrollment. Just give people the stuff they need.

This shouldn’t even be a liberal-socialist divide, although it seems to have become one in recent years. When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn’t provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples’ houses shouldn’t burn down, we didn’t provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.

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