Empathy-Building: Dems vs. Repubs

The book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, has been the most helpful framework for understanding how divided the United States currently is, and why Democrats and Republicans cannot come remotely close to understanding each other’s motivations.

To sum it up far too quickly, Jonathan Haidt and his team of moral psychologists have researched and identified 6 foundations that make up our individual sense of what is right and wrong. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians different greatly.

Democrats rely on 3 core values that take precedence over others:

[The following descriptions quoted from http://moralfoundations.org]

  1. Care/harm: attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
  2. Liberty/oppression: resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.
  3. Fairness/cheating: reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.

While Republicans value all 6, nearly equally, adding in:

  1. Loyalty/betrayal: our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
  2. Authority/subversion: our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
  3. Sanctity/degradation: the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

Libertarians value Liberty/Oppression and Fairness/Cheating to a much greater degree than any of the others.

In regard to our current political hostility, and as a designer, to think about how to overcome it, Haidt writes:

“From the perspective of Moral Foundations Theory, rural and working-class voters were in fact voting for the moral interests… Until Democrats understand…the difference between a six-foundation morality [Conservative] and a three-foundation morality [Liberal], they will not understand what makes people vote Republican.”

You can test your own moral proportions here: www.YourMorals.org

Watch Jonathan Haidt on Bill Moyers here: https://player.vimeo.com/video/36128360