Nearly everyone here has had the frustrating experience of trying – and failing – to convince a member of the GOP to see the light. A few of us have broken through. Most of us have failed. Many of us have wondered where on earth these people are getting their facts, their ideas, their directions. We wonder why they continue to behave in ways that seem to be
This diary references a great book published in 2012 by Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. He, too, has been frustrated by the great divide in the American people.
Although it fits, his choice of the metaphor elephant is not based on the GOP mascot. He introduced the metaphor in an earlier book, The Happiness Hypothesis (also worth a read).
Basically, people are not rational. Most people do not look at the facts objectively and then make up their minds. No, most people are elephants who are going in the direction they want to go in, and they look for reasons – nearly any will do – to justify what they’re doing.
That’s why we see about half of Republicans blaming Romney’s loss on ACORN even though ACORN no longer exists.
The poll shows that 49 percent of Republican voters believe that ACORN stole the election for President Obama. That’s down from the 52 percent who thought that ACORN stole the 2008 election, although as PPP points out, the decline is “smaller than might have been expected, given that ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.”We laugh. We point fingers when we read such things. In fact, we come to Dailykos and turn on MSNBC in order to expose ourselves to more of these statements, not even realizing that we are, in a sense, acting in a way that is very similar to the way the poor GOP is behaving. We are seeking out confirmation of what we like to believe: that Republicans are fools.
Of course, our beliefs are based more in reality than theirs. I truly do believe that. As Stephen Colbert has famously said, truth has a liberal bias, and even Bobby Jindal said that Republicans should stop being the stupid party.
But what can we do with such determined ignorance? How can we approach these people, preferably on a one-by-one basis, so that we erode some of the Republican support and win back the house?
I think the first thing we need to do is to understand how our brains are working. There are genetic differences – especially in the brains - between conservatives and liberals. Here are some of the results from studies cited by Haidt:
Conservatives react more strongly than liberals do to signs of danger
Openness to new experience is something found more often in liberal brains
Morality in liberals and conservatives has different bases. Liberal morality generally derives from the dimensions of "care/harm," "liberty/oppression," and, to a lesser degree, "fairness/cheating". Conservative morality values these dimensions but not as highly as liberal morality does. It is also concerned about "loyalty/betrayal," "authority/subversion," and "sanctity/degradation," dimensions of morality that tend to matter less to liberals.
If we consider these factors, we may do better a bridging the divide.
Haidt also recommends an old classic, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Start with a compliment to your elephant friend (you can almost always find a compliment that is genuine). Once you do that, your elephant friend will want to believe the rest of what you say.
I think we have an opportunity, and we have it now. We won the election, and people tend to like winners. Fewer are watching FOX News so fewer are exposed to the echo chamber – which was exposed to be a pretty unreliable source of information. The Republican
We certainly won’t win over all the elephants. But we can win over some. And we can help move this country forward.
I urge everyone to talk to an elephant: kindly, respectfully, without insults. Make them feel safe to join us.
And if you want to learn more, pick up or download Haidt's book.
Tired of politics? Need to escape? Try my Greek mythology based novels, either the story of Oedipus from the point of view of Jocasta, or a trilogy about Niobe, whose children were murdered by the gods - or were they?