A vast majority of the psychological and social factors that underlie partisan rancor and divisiveness are aspects of fundamental human nature that are common to everyone regardless of ideology. The number of factors that actually differentiate liberals, conservatives, and libertarians seems to boil down to two; Moral Foundations and Cognitive Style.
Most people are unaware of this. And since we tend to fear and demonize what we don’t understand, that lack of awareness exacerbates the partisan divide.
We can reduce the size of the divide and the amount of demonization that flows back and forth across it by increasing awareness, which in turn will increase empathy and common ground, through education.
Social science research has given us the knowledge to understand our differences and find common ground.
The education system already in place gives us the infrastructure through which we can disseminate that knowledge.
The question, therefore, is: Do we have the will to take on this challenge, or would we rather continue Coming Apart by allowing our comforting delusions about one another to fester?
In Part Two of this thesis I attempt to pick up where The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion left off, and illustrate more completely how the differences in moral foundations manifest in the real world and influence partisan rancor.
In Part Three I attempt to tease out some of the differences in Cognitive Style.
Based on these, in Part Four I offer some concrete suggestions as to how we can use this information to answer “Yes” to the following modified version of Rodney King’s question “Can we all get along [better]”?
Examples of common factors include:
The trick, then, in getting to the bottom of partisan divisiveness and rancor is to tease out from all the things liberals and conservatives think, say, and do, the aspects that are truly unique to each. Those factors seem to boil down to:
This thesis is a work in progress. I may add, delete, or change parts of it as I continue to learn and refine my ideas. But, I think it’s safe to say that my main themes are well established and will not change a great deal.
Some amount of divisiveness is inevitable and healthy. We need each other and rely upon one another to find the specks in our eyes and, eventually, work our way to the truth. Evolution was clever in “designing” this feature into our psyche.
But we humans have a strong tendency to demonize and vilify that which we don’t understand, and there’s a whole hell of a lot about what makes us think, say, and do the things we do that we don’t understand. Increasing our understanding of those things will help to shrink, but not eliminate, the size of the partisan divide and the amount of demonization that flows back and forth across it.
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