Berkeley researchers psychoanalyze conservatism

Researchers help define what makes a political conservative

I notice the dateline is “22 July 2003 (revised 7/25/03)” I bet that’s when they tacked on this ending:

Although they concluded that conservatives are less “integratively complex” than others are, Glaser said, “it doesn’t mean that they’re simple-minded.”

Conservatives don’t feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. “They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm,” Glaser said.

He pointed as an example to a 2001 trip to Italy, where President George W. Bush was asked to explain himself. The Republican president told assembled world leaders, “I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right.” And in 2002, Bush told a British reporter, “Look, my job isn’t to nuance.”

The researchers say they aren’t being partisan nor judgemental, but it’s pretty hard to not feel either smug or slighted. Though there is one insight I liked that I don’t think anyone can argue with:

“For a variety of psychological reasons, then, right-wing populism may have more consistent appeal than left-wing populism, especially in times of potential crisis and instability,” he said.

Populism is fueled by certainty, and people will always be more certain of the past than of the future. Thus people find certainty, and comfort, in the way things used to be. And I would further argue that even when popular movement acts, it’s a negative motivation rather than a positive one: they want to end something, something that exists, something certain. E.g. I think the French who stormed the Bastille were more interested in seeing its destruction than the creation of something new. And while during the CIvil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King eloquated beautiful new ethnic relations in the U.S., I bet most people were motivated by what they hoped to end.

(No, “to eloquate” isn’t a word, but it should be. And of the record, neither is “to nuance”.)

Thank you, that is all.

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