This article is right up the Psy’s alley: it uses psychology — although without explicitly identifying the tendencies as such — to explain our inexplicable politics. However, it is not nearly snarky, sarcasticky, or profaney enough. That’s okay, I fixed that by writing this here introduction.
It is all about how identity trumps ideology and anything else you might think you believe.We human beings have been graced by god or evolution or some other damn thing with some incredible gifts — the best gifts in the known universe! Believe me: we have thinking rational brains that can take all the stuff our senses have perceived, all the stuff the senses of other people have perceived and communicated to us, and mash it all up together and come up with things we call principles, beliefs, morals, rules, and other abstract shit. Then, we tell ourselves and anyone else foolish enough to sit still long enough that we live by them. That the Sermon on the Mount guides our every living breath, for example. It don’t. See Roy Moorelester for proof positive that it don’t.
Essentially, our beliefs (we’ll dispense with the long list of other words that generally indicate variations on the bullshit that we tell ourselves) are malleable, flexible as yoga master, so that they can wrap themselves around any behavior you choose to engage in! Again, see Roy Moorelester, the “good” Christian man, who happens to molest teenage girls, if you have any doubts.
So what does guide our behavior if it isn’t our beliefs? We have two things that help out here. One is a very primitive basic emotional response of either liking or disliking something. For example, Roy Moorelester sees a young teenage girl and he likee! So, he realizes that his “good” Christian values say he should not sexually assault girls, but presto changeo, now they do. Or we can ask Brock Turner how it’s okay to digitally rape an unconscious drunk woman because every man deserves ten minutes of fun… oh wait, that was his old man who taught him every “value” he’ll ever need which means that rape ain’t really rape even when it is.
In short, you hurt or avoid the things you dislike and you engage with and do the things you do like. Then, you use your words to justify it all as being in agreement with whatever values you purport to live by. That’s how many liberal types get to make hilarious jokes about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ weight and general lack of conformity to the features of classic good looks while criticizing conservatives for making fun of Clinton’s looks.
Hey kids, guess what, we’re all hypocrites. So, really, quit getting all worked up about the other side’s hypocrisy. There are far more effective criticisms to level at them.
The other principle that guides our behavior is group membership. God or evolution or whatever other shit people have believed made us the way we are — it’s evolution — made human beings to be dependent on the group. So, we fight to remain members in good standing of the groups we belong to even if it means violating a few principles that the individual or the group claims to adhere to.
In his research, Lenz finds some people are more likely to be consistent on certain topics, like marijuana legalization, abortion access, and anything related to racial identity. But overall, “we have ample evidence that people are amazingly good at ignoring contradictions.” People can say they support free trade one year and say they’re against it the next, and not really notice their opinion has changed.
If you think that all the other members of the group you most identify with are doing, saying, or believing something, then you’re very likely to either do, say, or believe that thing, too. You’ll go through whatever cognitive dissonance necessary to reconcile whatever contradictory actions, statements, or beliefs from your past with whatever it is you think is required of you now. Ask Roy Moorelesters supporters or Brock Turner’s mother about their undying and unwavering support for their saints.
Our desire to belong to a group and fear of risking expulsion from the group is far more important than all of our most cherished principles, morals, and beliefs. Let’s face it, principles, morals, and beliefs are all malleable; they’re abstract after all. But, remaining a member in good standing of whatever group — at least for hunter-gatherers — was life or death stuff. We evolved to value group membership and to do whatever it takes to maintain the group and our membership in it over just about everything else.
This article reports on a study that demonstrates this principle very clearly and that study uses conservatives as its stooges! This tendency, also, explains the reason for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s rank-and-file support in spite of his frequent violations of long cherished conservative values, principles, and beliefs. For example, as recently as 2015 only 12% of Repube voters held favorable views of Russia and Putin, but by 2017 that grew to 32%. The whiplash inducing shift in views of Russia and Putin is down to the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s supportive statements of Russia and Putin.
It’s as if people are saying to themselves: Hey I’m a redneck asshole Christian conservative, so if this asshole “conservative” leader says x, y, and z, then it must be conservative, so I must believe it, too.
In their study, Barber and Pope found the people most likely to follow Trump’s lead were those who didn’t know much about politics but still strongly identified as Republicans. The most knowledgeable in their sample were hardly swayed at all.
Your support for a candidate or affiliation with a political party are far stronger than the views you hold. If you voted for Nixon, you were likely to support the wage and price freeze that he put into effect AFTER he did it, but (a) you would maintain that you have never and would never support such a communist thing and (b) you would be rabid supporter of it should the Ol’ Pussy Grabber do such a communist thing. Worse, you would not be aware that you had shifted your beliefs. Nope not at all. It would be a seamless transition.
Most of us are vulnerable to this effect, but luckily, there is one caveat: the pompous self-righteous smug exception. Participants with more political knowledge were far less likely to support whatever the Ol’ Pussy Grabber said than those who were more casual political participants.
But, don’t take my word for any of this. Read the article. It’s damn good. And, tell ’em you heard it here!
Trump is a real-world political science experiment
How far will Republicans follow their leader?
President Donald Trump is a Republican. But often, and more so than any president in memory, he lacks a consistent political ideology.
During the campaign, Trump took five different positions on abortion in three days. On other issues, his policy preferences have been clear as mud: “I don’t want to have guns in classrooms, although in some cases, teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly,” he told Fox News in 2016.
And where he is more consistent — like in his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, most stunningly in the recent joint press conference in Helsinki — he is often at odds with many prominent figures in his own party.
All this makes this period of history extremely interesting for political scientists and psychologists to study.
“We’ve never had a federal elected official, let alone the leader of a party or the president of the United States, who is so easily moved from one position to another without offering any sort of justification or apology or explanation,” Michael Barber, a political scientist at Brigham Young University, said last year.
Continue reading at Vox: Why Republicans are unlikely to stop supporting Trump – Vox