Conservatives and liberals – different moralities

Good article from Steven Pinker in the NY Times magazine.


The ranking and placement of moral spheres also divides the cultures of liberals and conservatives in the United States. Many bones of contention, like homosexuality, atheism and one-parent families from the right, or racial imbalances, sweatshops and executive pay from the left, reflect different weightings of the spheres. In a large Web survey, Haidt found that liberals put a lopsided moral weight on harm and fairness while playing down group loyalty, authority and purity. Conservatives instead place a moderately high weight on all five. It’s not surprising that each side thinks it is driven by lofty ethical values and that the other side is base and unprincipled.


3 Responses to “Conservatives and liberals – different moralities”

  1. Reena Says:

    I received this letter from the Anti-racist parent website that I frequent. The young woman who wrote the letter is a professional who provides workshops to businesses and organizations regarding racial issues and diversity. She also provides commentary on CNN from time to time on race issues.

    I have found most of her writing to be thoughtful and I find her opening comments regarding Palin referring to “US” voters as ‘Joe Six Pack’ and ‘Hockey Moms’ to resonate with comments I’ve made to you that those descriptors indicate how out of touch Palin is with the greater citizenry.

    Regardelss, I am sure you will find plent of errors with what she has written in this letter.

    But, what if even 5% of what she has written is true?

    An open letter to white voters, or what McCain really thinks of you
    by Carmen Van Kerckhove

    Dear white voter,

    Sorry, was that too direct? Sarah Palin loves calling you “Joe Six Pack” and “hockey mom.” Perhaps I too, should use one of 68 possible euphemisms to refer to you instead.

    I want to ask you a simple question: Which candidate — McCain or Obama — do you think has a higher opinion of your character?

    John McCain has spent the last couple of weeks asking ominously: “Who is the real Barack Obama?”

    Sarah Palin hasn’t hesitated to supply an answer to this question. She declared at a Florida rally on Monday that Barack Obama “is not a man who sees America the way you and I see America. I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.”

    And as CNN’s Campbell Brown pointed out in her commentary Wednesday night, McCain surrogates have made a point of calling the Democratic candidate “Barack Hussein Obama” at least twice this week.

    The McCain campaign is doing its best to paint Obama as a shadowy Manchurian candidate who is un-American, unpatriotic, dangerous, sympathetic to terrorists, and possibly even a secret Muslim (needless to say, that’s a bad thing in their eyes).

    That much is obvious.

    But what does their strategy say about what they think of you, the white voter?

    Judging from their messaging, they seem to be stereotyping white voters as closed-minded, paranoid, naive, xenophobic, and just a tad bit racist.

    And they are certainly connecting successfully with people who match this profile.

    At a New Mexico rally on Monday, McCain asked the crowd, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” A voice in the crowd yelled out, “A terrorist!”

    When Palin delivered her stump speech berating Obama at the Florida rally on the same day, an audience member yelled, “Kill him!” Audience members then began shouting angrily at the reporters covering the event, one of them yelling racial slurs at an African-American camera man and telling him to “Sit down, boy.”

    Do you bear any resemblance to these agitators? Probably not.

    Do you fit the profile of the racist and xenophobic white voter? Probably not.

    Then do you really want to support a candidate who thinks so little of you that his only strategy right now is to appeal to your basest human instincts of fear and hatred?

    Contrast McCain’s view of you to that of Obama’s.

    Despite the harsh realities of racism in America — his being placed under Secret Service protection earlier than any other presidential candidate in history, for example — Obama has never expressed anything but unfailing faith in you.

    His February 2007 appearance on 60 Minutes was just one of countless interviews in which he made that clear:

    KROFT: You think the country’s ready for a black President?

    OBAMA: Yes.

    KROFT: You don’t think it’s going to hold you back?

    OBAMA: No. I think if I don’t win this race, it will be because of other factors. It’s going to be because I have not shown to the American people a vision for where the country needs to go that they can embrace.

    In his speech on race this spring, Obama declared: “I would not be running for president if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country.”

    Dear white voter, it’s time for a decision.

    This November, will you support the candidate who assumes the worst about your character and motivations?

    Or will you vote for the candidate who has never stopped believing in and championing your capacity for greatness?


  2. William Says:

    Lots of inferences in the anti-racist parent letter from some facts that are short on details and context.

    Obama took big political risks when he chose to associate with these people. Are Americans not allowed to examine those associations just because some nuts out there might yell things in crowds?

    Is this really McCain’s ONLY strategy?

    As for the Obama interview, how the heck else was he supposed to answer? Of course it sounds wonderful, but Obama has been caught saying some very directly provacative things that don’t exactly jive with the lovely inteview.

    Back in April ’08 in San Francisco:

    “Obama said that many Americans in the small towns across the Midwest “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment” because they are “bitter” over economic anxiety.”


  3. Reena Says:

    Regarding the quote from Obama-

    He said ‘many Americans in the small towns across the Midwest, ‘ he did not say ‘ALL,’ which would then be a stereotype.

    Having grown-up in a small mid-Western town, I don’t disagree with his comment. Not ALL people, but some.

    You do see people driving around with a shotgun in their truck. Folks attend one of the same 3-5 churches. There is a certain ‘overall’ mindset held by the majority of white folks living in small towns.

    Don’t even get me started on the gender biases! Perhaps it was more generational, but regardless, this is one of the reasons why I moved away from a small Midwester town. I think I’ve mentioned that before– more than once.

    I recall hearing about a study a few years ago that investigated why more people in the South were harmed/killed by major weather events. The in-going thought was this was due to more severe weather such as tornados. What this study found was that folks living in the south were more likely to rely on their religious beliefs to keep them safe than to practice safety measures to keep themself safe. While people in the north were more likely to practice safety measures than rely on their religious beliefs.

    This is not an absolute– just a tendency.

    I wouldn’t mind reviewing that study– see how it was set-up, sample size, stats used for analysis. Maybe if you have some time you can look for it.


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