Jonathan Haidt has an interesting article here called “What Makes People Vote Republican?”
It’s interesting because Haidt clearly identifies with the Left, but he makes a game, good-faith attempt to comprehend the Right. This is rare supply on the Internet, though even more in the meida. In the media, Republicans (and Scientologists!) are either evil or stupid. It’s safe to say that members of either group don’t recognize themselves from the descriptions of them by their antagonists.
Ace talked about this a bit a while ago: It may be that we all understand the logic of Left, because we’re presented it on a daily basis in newspapers, television shows, movies, music–the arts in genera–and schools. Goldstein might say the Left deals in identity politics, but it’s ultimately its own identity.
If you’re one of them, you get to also claim authenticity on your other demographics: woman, minority, or even working man or intellectual. If you’re not–if you reject the Left’s embrace–there are many, many categories for you to be in, but one of the little used ones is “Guy who’s okay even if he disagrees with me about something”.
Haidt correctly identifies at least part of the problem with seeing the world in that manner: One becomes self-righteous and ultimately lazy. In the current election, many of the attacks on Sarah Palin are aimed at the parodic strawman the Left thinks the Right is, hence the howling about the pregnant teen. (I have no doubt that the Right would use this against a Left candidate if the situation were reversed, at least in the past. From what I’ve seen, though, the Right is quick to censure it’s own for bad behavior.)
Of course, the whole point of traditional morality, in the larger sense, is to prevent such lapses in behavior from occurring, and jeopardizing the group. So Bristol and Levi are committed to the socially prescribed remedy of getting married. The Left spits gouts of flame about hypocrisy when, of course, the point of morality is not that you never make a mistake, but that you take the correct action when you do, inevitably, fail.
Haidt, quite to his credit, gets that, at least well enough to write a serviceable explanation.
One could reduce all social arguments down to that balance between the individual, his family, and society in all its facets. It would be sensible to do so as far as the government was concerned, of course: The first question the government should ask when facing any social issue from drug use to teen pregnancy is whether or not the government should get involved with trying to fix said issue.
He completely misses the statist/non-statist view of things, but it has to be admitted, the socially conservative Right is an entirely different beast from the fiscally conservative Right. He also misses, I think, the point that the Left has its own group morality that is far harsher than the morality on the Right–and also completely self-destructive.
Think about that for a moment: Much like the USSR couldn’t exist without the USA to feed it, the Left would rapidly dwindle if it didn’t constantly recruit from the right. (This is why the Soviets infiltrated our government, media and education in the first place. Believe it or not, the USA used to be a place where advocating its violent overthrow would’ve been considered in poor taste.)
In truth, it’s not the social axis that’s important, it’s the financial one. And social cons and libs alike can embrace Big Government, as the current President–and crisis–shows.