Social Psychology

How Come Repubes Support Roy Moore, but Dems Force Al Franken Out? Moral Foundation Theory

Now that Franken, Conyers, and Franks have all resigned for their sexual indiscretions, and we’ve all come down from our pipe dream that Doug Jones can too defeat the Moorelester, we can now turn our attention to understanding this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. Now that we’ve tossed the groper, the demander, and the surrogater out of Congress, we’re about to elect a molester? Of course we have the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief paying pee hookers to piss on the Resolute Desk and everything America stands for (allegedly, or at least I am speculating wildly about it here and now), so why would we be surprised that a child molester — he has admitted to having “dated” teen-aged girls somewhere in the twisted maze of focus-group tested utterances, ain’t that right Mrs Moorelester?

FestivusOriginsSeriously, what the fuck gives? What can account for this schizophrenic split personality approach that we take to our politics nowadays? Or have we always been this partisan and hypocritical and win at all costs? I’m only an amateur historian, so we won’t be exploring the latter, but I am a psychology dilettante, so we’ll be psysplaining the former. As always, I adhere to the belief that if we can make a good diagnosis, we can select a good treatment, which will lead to a good outcome. And, I hope that we’ll help you keep the peace with your favorite drunk uncle around the Festivus Pole this holiday season.

Moral Foundation Theory

We can add Moral Foundations Theory to our already rich tapestry of explanatory explanations of inexplicable human behavior. The idea is that there are five (+1) psychological foundations of our morality or is that moral foundations of our psychology? I don’t know. I can’t ever keep some of this shit straight. I guess that’s why I’m blogging about the application of psychology and not actually applying psychology for some lucrative paycheck.

These five moral traits are the underpinning of our species-wide intuitive morality. Morality varies greatly across cultures and time, but there are themes that seem to run through it all. The theory was dreamed up by Jonathan Haidt et al. They’re all a bunch of social psychologists, and we all know what that bunch is like. I’ll list them here, and I’m sure you’ll recognize some of my most favoritest themes in them:

  • harm-care: This continuum refers to empathy. The more you act out of concern for the well-being of others, the more you are driven by care. The more you are willing to tolerate or cause pain and discomfort to others, harm.
  • sanctity-degradation: Evolution has favored those traits that react with disgust to typical disease carrying agents: feces, rotting food, and other things (the Moorelester and the Ol’ Pussy Grabber?) that make you go Ewww! Get the fuck away from me! Now, I’ve gotta go home and take a shower. Because those who didn’t react to disgusting things with disgust, all got sick and died before they could pass their traits on.
  • loyalty-betrayal: We are social animals. We form groups. We form social groups in order to do things. Human beings work best in groups. Ingroups encourage loyalty, but some ingroups encourage more loyalty than others.
  • authority-subversion: Social Dominance Theory, anyone? Our societies are organized through social hierarchies some higher than others, though. Get it? Get it? Hierarchies. Higher than others? Get it? Hier? Higher? Man, I just crack myself up sometimes.
  • fairness-cheating: This continuum encompasses the idea of reciprocity and proportionality. It is the reason that every child and teenager intuitively knows to needle their parents and teachers with It’s not fair! We have this need for things to be fair either through doing unto others as they have to you or making sure that our treatment of others is in proportion to how we’ve been treated.
  • liberty-subversion: The official +1 candidate for inclusion as one of the psychological foundations of our moral. How much or how little do you mind being dominated, bossed around, or otherwise controlled?

Iffin’ you want to know how you fair on these scales of morality and stack up to your peers, kin, and country folk, you can clicky the clicking thingee and visit their questionnaires page (you have to register to participate, though). It’s great lots of fun to answer all their little questions about how much you value snapping the heads off of wickets or stitching the legs of children together or nailing an opponents head to a coffee table. And, if you have something that you’re procrastinating on doing — Christmas shopping, maybe? — you can feel very productive and get absolutely nothing done while feeling pretty darn good about contributing to real honest to god science!

Applying Moral Foundation Theory

Funnily enough, the research from this group finds that certain moral foundations correlate with certain groups. A well known one is that liberals are stuck on fairness and conservatives, sanctity. But, there are other insights to be had.

We all know that I believe that ALL MEN are rapists waiting for the moment when we will strike. It’s sad, but true. One of the chiefest things that it hinges on is empathy or care vs. harm. And, we can take each and every one of our sexual predators listed above and all the others that have and will populate the news and our lives and be very sure of one thing. When these men were sexually aggressing against their victims, their empathy levels were extraordinarily low and the harm tolerating side of their moral continuum was activated. They were much more willing to tolerate harming others than perhaps they normally were or they were in other situations. I would also wager that if you asked them in that moment, the Al Frankens of our world wouldn’t’ve even  thought that they were causing harm when they were grabbing the ass of whoever was posing for a picture with them.

That’s what makes it all so very confusing. Al Franken’s female staffers and co-stars stood up and came together to shout with one voice, he’s a good guy. And, that could be true and co-exist with his ass grabbing ways. Good guys grope, too. It’s the situation, not necessarily the person.

Narcissism, Harm, Care, and Empathy

Frankens, Conyer, and Franks all rate pretty high on the narcissism scale. Most publicly known people do. It really is the only way you can tolerate the life. And, we know from our study of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber that narcissists don’t believe the rules apply to them.  It ain’t okay for Calico the lowly blogger to grab ’em by the pussy, but it surely it’s okay for the celebrity “billionaire” to, right? It ain’t okay for just any old run-of-the-mill middle class feller to rape a fourteen year-old, but it’s okay for an up and coming district attorney who has asked her mama for permission to rape her, amirite Moorelester? You see what I mean here? That narcissism goes a long way to excusing any wrong doing because it ain’t a mere mortal doing the wrongs… It’s my right as an entertainer! Sound familiar? Probably did happen given the levels of entitlement that come along with higher levels of narcissism.

Fairness: What is Fair?

This begs the question, why are the Dems so bent on getting rid of popular high-profile elected Congress people and the Repubes just bent, er, I mean, seemingly just as bent on accepting a child molester into the Senate? Liberals tend to the fairness end of the spectrum. We get hung up on equality, fairness, decency, and humanity. Every liberal reading this is nodding along in agreement scratching her ass wondering what else could be as important? Conservatives — if any conservative has read this far — is thinking that they are being being fair and equal and decent and humane, too, because they don’t coddle people and make ’em dependent on government handouts like liberals do. They want them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and think for themselves, which is a way of being fair and equal and decent. Their reasoning is that it is unfair to have god-fearing hard-working middle class white people support all the lazy mooching browns.

Liberals and conservatives see the world through fundamentally different lenses. Liberals want an even application of the rules as they see them. This excludes the it’s okay if Hillary does it critique that conservatives like to throw about. If sexual predation is wrong, it’s wrong when Franken does it and when the Moorelester does it, too.

Because Bill Clinton: Loyalty

I know, Bill Clinton. But, there were, including me, people who said he was abusing his position and was being a sexual predator way back in the late 90’s when it was all going down. However, there were a bunch more insisting that it was okay. We cannot ignore the role of partisan politics in these choices and decisions. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize this reaction as loyalty. He’s your  guy even if he is a sexual predator, at least he’s your sexual predator, and he’s voting for your policy positions and laws.

Dems were loyal to Clinton even though many had doubts. Repubes are loyal to the Moorelester even though there is little room for doubt. Libs say be fair: give the accusers their day, the accusations are credible, he should step down. Cons say it don’t matter how we win as long as we win — honest, conservatives have been saying that about Russia buying the Ol’ Pussy Grabber — so why would they mind a child molester as long as his election allows them to give needless destructive tax breaks to the wealthy and wring every last cent from the middle class! Won’t Dems win one of the elections and set it all right again. So, what does it matter? They’ll destroy the fucking country that’s what it matters, but that’s a blog post for another time.

Give Me Liberty or Let’s Sell Out to Putin To WIN WIN WIN!

The last one we’ll cover is liberty-subversion. It’s application to the political landscape of sexual predation is an interesting one, too. In fact, it is as twisted as Matt Lauer’s sexual proclivities are. Conservatives come down on the liberty side of things. They don’t like no way no how the man and big brotha from another motha telling them what to do! Just ask the Bundys about all that there nonsense. In many ways, the conservative reaction to accusations of sexual harassment is that women are subverting the liberty of the men involved. It is bad enough that rich white guys can boss other white guys around; conservatives are not going to stand for black guys and women being the boss of them, too!

With this interpretation, we get the perversion that a real live human being is less important than another. The man’s desire to handle and treat women in degrading sexual ways is more important than the sanctity of her body and her life. She is less important than he is.

Is that stance or belief surprising, though? This is the same bunch that brought you slavery and Jim Crow and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps. They start out looking at the world like it is uneven and unfair. Some people are just more equal than others. White supremacy is literally encoded in their world-view. The Moorelester believes that all of the amendments to the Constitution after the tenth one should be abolished! No more votes for blacks or women! No more equal protection and due process! Hello slavery and poll taxes! It is just a small small step from believing it, but only letting it slip out occasionally, to electing the Moorelester who is willing to say it, to enacting it and doing it. Ain’t that what’s happening with all this voter registration and election fraud nonsense? Aren’t we already on this slippery slope struggling for footing?

Arguing With Your Favorite Drunk Uncle

One way social psychology-types think we can use these dichotomies is by changing the way we argue with one another. Instead of trying to argue fairness, which conservatives will never see, we argue for our positions using loyalty — the people of Puerto Rico are Americans! But, they don’t see the browns and Muslims and people who live in California as Americans. We are all foreigners. And, foreigners are treated as if they are disease-carrying disgusting abominations before god. We can’t argue for being loyal to fellow Americans when the only people who count in their eyes as fellow Americans is a narrow slice of white Americana.

Okay, well, we can argue from authority. There is the rule of law. It is hard to argue from the rule of law, though, when we (a) don’t trust the FBI unless it is persecuting commie-pinko fags or (b) declare all science and professional reporters, fake news. When we declare the only law that matters is that of gawd which conservatives are the only authorize mouthpiece of, ain’t that right, Moorelester?

Now the problem starts to come into stark relief: if we continue down this road, we will soon run out of commonalities. We won’t have any agreement upon which to relate, govern, or live together. We will cease to share a culture.

Just like the villain in all the super-hero movies who’s bent on destroying the world and everything, what’s the end game? The villain and her minions cannot live on a destroyed world any better than the super-heroes can. If we destroy any sense of commonality between conservative and liberal in the US of A, what will be left with? Will we even have a country left? Will we have a diminished US and a Putin-controlled rump US?

Will we then truly be the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid?


12 replies »

  1. I’m afraid I don’t think very much of your analysis. To be fair, I don’t think very much of moral foundation theory.

    There is only one basis for human morality: fairness (aka John Rawls). We are biologically equipped to understand and process fairness, just as we are for language. Morality is an evolutionary strategy for social, self-aware creatures.

    All those other foundations are not morality; they are ways to escape morality. Language was invented to communicate, but people also use it to lie and confuse. In the same way, fairness is the top-line strategy, but in lots of specific situations you can profit by not following it. Hence, culture and people invent ways to circumscribe fairness. Conservatives are just better at it.

    Also, Franken is not an ass-grabber. Alone of every single accused figure, he demanded an investigation. Alone of every single accused figure, he did not have an journalistic investigation, police report, court settlement, or open secret. His original accuser included lies in her accusation and an out-of-context photo; his following accusers were anonymous or absurd (waist fondling!); and his alleged crimes were categorically different than every other accused figure (he at worst abused consent, while the others abused power). If you missed all these analytical red flags, I’m not sure why I should place any value on your other analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Yahzi!

      I appreciate your dislike of Moral Foundation Theory in favor of Rawls. Fair enough. I will say that while Rawls and other philosophers rely on the social and biological science to inform their work, they do not empirically test their hypotheses the way that social psychologists like Haidt et al. do. Moral Foundation Theory is based on gathering data from thousands of individuals and statistically analyzing those results. It does not necessarily make it valid, but it is an attempt to understand what people are doing and then develop a predictive theory to fit that data. If and when the data changes, the theory will either be adapted to the new understanding or scrapped. Right now, it has interpretive and predictive value. But, you know, to each their own.

      As for Franken, my understanding is that there was a contemporaneous Facebook post about one of the ass grabbing photo incidents in which the woman in question said, he grabbed my ass while the photo was being taken. And, another had made a Facebook post earlier in the year along the lines of “Are we posting the celebrity that sexually harassed us? Mine is Franken.” Followed by an outline of the photo ass grabbing incident. Most people find such evidence credible since it is reliably dated before the accusation was made. There is no reason for either woman to lie in those situations.

      Franken is a hero of mine. He is a person that I admired greatly. I don’t think he necessarily needed to resign, but I think he did not handle the situation very well. I liked his call for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate. I understood that he could not publicly admit guilt due to the risk of lawsuit, but I think he could’ve done more than “I don’t recall those situations the same way.”

      I think I got those analytical red flags. But, again, to each their own. We all take in information, process it, and weight it differently. I try to link to my sources, use reliable sources, and be as factual as possible. I support my contentions with and arguments.

      What is not okay with me is the lack of agreement that our country is developing concerning just about everything nowadays. We can define culture as having a large amount of agreement between people when looking at the same thing. If we both walk into a room filled with tables and chairs and a kitchen, we would probably both conclude that it is a dining establishment. Right now, we are faced with a situation where the Moorelester loses the election, and his supporters are saying things like, “Gawd wouldn’t let a Democrat win in Alabama.” We are both looking at the same thing, and coming to two very different conclusions.

      To my mind that was the most important part of the post.



    • “There is only one basis for human morality: fairness”

      Unless you’re using some strange definition of morality or fairness, this makes little sense.

      The fundamental questions of morality are: what should one do and what should one not do? Fairness is not our only principle or goal, nor should it be. We also should want to limit harm, for example, otherwise a world of fairly apportioned suffering must be regarded as superior to a world of slightly less fairly apportioned happiness. In some moral decisions, fairness is barely an issue, if at all, or is so vague or difficult to estimate as to be useless to the moral calculus. In fact, sometimes the moral action is an unfair one.

      There is value to at least some of the other moral concerns that Haidt describes. It is important that we respect rules and authority up to a point, that we respect others’ freedom up to a point, etc. Other values, like sanctity and loyalty, are more questionable (and unfortunately more common among conservative ideologies). But forget about all of that. You don’t have to accept any of these things as “genuine morality,” whatever that might mean. You should, however, be able to see that they are useful labels for the various sorts of considerations and behaviors that humans have lumped into morality across cultures and time, from murder to homosexuality to speeding to disrespecting elders to overstaying your welcome at a friend’s house.

      I take a rather expansive view of morality myself: every intentional action has some moral value, i.e. impacts the world in some desirable or undesirable way, regardless of how subtly, and therefore is subject to the question: should one do that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Howdy Ryan!

        Your comments are much appreciated. I especially liked your mention of intention or motivation when evaluating the morality of a behavior or action. There is a big difference between grabbing an ass that you thought was okay to grab and grabbing an ass that you knew you didn’t have permission to grab. We do have to rely on the “honesty” of all of the parties involved when reporting their actions and that is the failing that we are currently facing. Maintaining your group or your position has become more important than an honest exchange. Trust has deteriorated greatly. As a group, we seem to behave as if it is more important to be able to mock and shame those we are in discussion with than to exchange ideas.

        Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy F’ing Festivus, Happy Holidays and all of that!


      • I hadn’t even read your full post before responding to Yahzi, but now that I have, I can say that I agree with your end analysis.

        I would love for conservatives to care more about those moral categories that correspond to actual happiness/harm instead of those that tend to emerge from religion or tribalism (sanctity, loyalty). I recognize the importance of appealing to the values/desires that others actually have when arguing with them, but that can only go so far when they believe things like homosexuality is an abomination or abortion is baby genocide–because Jesus says so. Without a shared reasonable perspective on morality, understanding others doesn’t help us much in debate.

        But even if we do have a shared reasonable perspective on morality, we can’t make much progress without also having a shared reasonable perspective on reality. Thanks primarily to conservative Christianity and media designed to cater to our existing beliefs and biases, we have reached a point where we cannot even agree on basic facts about the world, from the threat of terrorism to the unemployment rate to the legitimacy of science itself. Conservatives and liberals are becoming two utterly incompatible groups of people because they are losing or have already lost their commonalities to the extent that we can make fairly reliable guesses about a person’s political leanings based solely on knowledge of his religious beliefs, race, region, etc. It is like two very different countries were smashed together thoughtlessly. If we can’t escape each other and we can’t live with each other, mocking and shaming each other may be all we have left.

        We’ve been told again and again by liberal voices that the Republican party is demographically doomed, but it’s hard to be optimistic when our country (or its system of government) just elected its worst president and he still has so many supporters after proving himself incompetent and even malicious. People like that will be around for years to come and continue to wield influence, so it’s not enough to just wait for the problem to solve itself. I just don’t know what can possibly be done within the constraints of our legal system and political reality to pull that off.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Ryan!

          I can’t quite remember who the representative was who said it, but just the other day there was a member of Congress urging white women to have more children! Just for this very reason. Instead of replenishing our population with immigration — the only sensible thing to do when we have a world on the brink of over population and accompanying pollution — he wants us to create a white counter-weight to the unwashed starving masses of browns.

          I’m working on a post that addresses these very themes. The real danger comes when we begin to dehumanize the other side. Right now, the conservatives just treat liberals as foreigners — icky and disgusting and quite possibly diseased — but when they begin to see the libs as being less than human, then knives really do come out and the concentration camps can be built. Evangelical Christianity and white supremacy are ideologies built for just that kind of treatment of other human beings.

          Given the Russian infrastructure for online manipulation, our own doubt of objective reality, and the debased greed and narcissism of our leadership, we are easily manipulated into dehumanizing the other side and tearing ourselves apart at the seams. Interestingly, the purity side of the the liberal faction shares much of the Moral Foundation with the conservative wing.

          About 1/3 of the population, so far, that remain a supporter of this extreme conservative ideology. Unfortunately we have a very large percentage of the population that is only marginally interested and engaged. As long as they have the internet, the ability to mock and shame and be part of the #hashtag resistance, they’ll be happy to sell the country cheap to the Russians and watch one-third of the country march another third of the country into gas chambers. I hope it isn’t that far gone, but still it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. Hopefully the destruction of net neutrality will cause enough buffering during Netflix that the masses will become enraged and try to do something about it.



    • Howdy Suze!

      I KNOW, right? Just looking at the election in Alabama and listening to the evangelical Moorelester supporters frightens me. They do not believe that they have to follow US law because gawd is above the law. They literally think that if they’re doing it, it is good and gawdly because they are good and gawdly people. There is no check or balance on them. Couple that with “fake” news and you get the Moorelester. Thank goodness it don’t look like he is going to win. I won’t believe it until Jones is sworn in or the Moorelester dies — literally, I mean, dies because the rat fuckers will be trying to find a way to fuck the rat into the Senate where the Repubes can then toss him out and allow Gov. Ivey, who according to Moorelester should’nt even be allowed to vote much less hold office, can appoint his replacement and never hold another special election again because that is the new rat fucking trick the Repubes have learned.

      Then I get to thinking about the Sanders and lib purity voters or sanctity in the lingo of the Moral Foundation Theory and begin to worry about the irreparable split on the left.

      God, I hate righteous indignation. The smug bastards fiddle while it all burns around them.



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