Here’s a neat bit of news, courtesy of the scholarly community: Your political opinions reflect your inner anxieties and biases. Including — pssst — your Racial Views.
Let us tarry a moment with the deep thinkers at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, whose meditations the Washington Post reported this week. The society just came off a conference, wherein were presented, said the Post, "several provocative psychological studies about the nature of political belief."
It would seem — I am still quoting the Post — that our politics are rooted in "emotion and implicit assumptions." Not quite you-are-what-you-ate — more like you-aren’t-what-you-hate. One study — the Post again — "put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy — but only in candidates they opposed."
Another study said that "supporters of President Bush and other conservatives held stronger self-admitted biases against blacks than liberals did."
A Harvard psychologist commented: "George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice." Quod erat demonstrandum — the left long ago having determined that the only reason for opposing busing, affirmative action, etc. is hostility to the aims of blacks.
Here once more go the blind men, feeling the elephant out, saying lordly things about the whole with respect to the discrete parts they have noted. I wouldn’t imagine much will come of these various studies, apart from the interest they will excite among bloggers. Everybody knows there is some connection — some element even of bias — in political determinations. The damnable modernity of these revelations is what I might draw attention to.
Americans, circa 2006, pretty much assume rationality has fled the political scene. You can tell from the language. The Angry Left isn’t about to give George W. Bush a shred of credit for doing anything in which he believes. By Howard Dean’s standards, and those of the liberal bloggers, Bush-ism is a pyramid of lies and deceptions. Iraq! Weapons of mass destruction! Even Katrina! And now the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Samuel Alito Jr., who has convinced Joseph Biden and Teddy Kennedy that he and Bush are conspiring to roll back civil liberties, etc., etc.
The naturalistic explanation of politics makes all these notions plain as day — to those who buy into the naturalistic explanation of politics: everything a function of self-interest and inner emotion. Shall we not overlook the race card lying on the table? The argument is, unless the NAACP gets every item on its agenda, those who vote to deny that agenda are crypto-slave holders. Oh, can’t you just see Bush stalking the cotton fields, with bullwhip in hand, seeking to scourge the slackers and, especially, those slaves with some perversely exalted notion of human rights?
The naturalistic explanation of political preference is just now the biggest obstacle to anything like political reconciliation. If you know your opponents, of either party, are a bunch of no-goods, acting out their base instincts, you can write them off. In fact, you can commence calling them all sorts of bad names — starting with "liars."
The naturalistic explanation of political preference shouts down Reason and, along with it, the religious understanding of society as a mass of men and women all in the same boat, spiritually speaking — none as righteous as he thinks, all burdened in greater or lesser degree by that old affliction our ancestors called sin. But, hey, this isn’t a church. It’s churches — right? — that want to shackle free thought and turn our minds and schools over to fundamentalists.
You hear such things, indeed: one more reminder of how public discourse falls apart once you begin to flagellate opponents on grounds of their shaky relationship to decency, honor, everything you’ve got, but not they; oh, no, not they, or they’d see things your way.
Try nailing down an argument harder, tighter, than with that alluring hammer.