Don’t Dismiss Palin’s Appeal

From The Situationist:

Regardless of policy expertise, is there reason to think that makes a difference whether Sarah Palin is a moose-hunting, “Joe Six-Pack” conservative Christian? Yes. Humans are fundamentally social and those distinctions matter – no matter which side of them you may be on. In fact, our affinity for those with similar backgrounds provides an important means of making sense of the world and strengthening ties with others. We have such a natural predisposition for “birds of a feather” to “flock together” that even groups formed with no prior connection among the members (or no meaningful connection at all) can demonstrate a preference for their comrades over those outside the group. Social psychologists call this the “minimal group” paradigm: Individuals randomly assigned to one group over another, absent any rational justification, engage in self-evaluation that favors their new group and strengthens their affiliation with its members. In cultural, family, or political groups, our affiliation with others can provide a comforting means of evaluating the immense, complex web of incomplete information with which we are presented in everyday life. Psychologists have even found that identification of a policy proposal as being from one’s own party can be more determinative of an individual’s approval than the actual content of the proposed policy.

Because our evaluation of policies and political candidates is not purely rational, candidates like Sarah Palin can invoke existing or imagined group affiliations to reframe the political landscape and override other, more rational considerations.

All of this matters because, regardless of who draws the lines in the sand, these tactics do not uniquely manipulate one segment of the country or one end of the political spectrum. Rather they impact all of us by contributing to a situation that alters our perceptions, incites prejudice, and affects behavior across the board. When political tacticians push small town Americans to claim moral superiority over the rest of the country, the resulting climate encourages liberal, college-educated Americans to ignore the complexity in regional and local politics in favor of their own self-serving views. In short, the idea that liberals are more rational or intellectual than conservatives perpetuates a simplistic, partisan view that precludes empathy and interferes with positive change.

Read the whole post here

3 thoughts on “Don’t Dismiss Palin’s Appeal

  1. I told myself I wasn’t going to comment, because I thought maybe you’d heard enough of my big mouth for one day…LOL! I know you’d never say that, though. You’re too nice.

    But I just had to say this is extremely interesting. I can be in a crowd of thousands of people, and if I hear an accent even remotely similar to my own, my head turns. I want to talk to that person. (Of course, it also has to do with the fact that I’m not around people who have my accent anymore).

    If the person in the crowd who has my accent turns out to be a jackass, I am crushed. That actually happened one time, and I was truly hurt. I couldn’t understand how one of “my own” could be a jackass, when in reality, people are just people. I know that on an intellectual level. On an emotional level, I still feel comfort in the similarities. Interestingly enough, race doesn’t play into it, at least not on a conscious level. It’s the accent. Or mannerisms.

    I can apply this “social psychology” to so many aspects of my life. If I find out someone is a poet, I instantly want to talk to her/him, etc.

    But I can’t imagine taking those social feelings into the voting booth. Unfortunately, so many people do! I will add, though, that I have seen the emotional vote on both sides and in all elections since I’ve been old enough to vote.

    Very interesting stuff and again, great food for thought. Wonderful post as always! Thanks for putting up with me. I’ll try to shut up for a day or two now:) Love ya, sister.

  2. Arrrrgggghhhhh don’t shut up sister, I miss you when you’re not here oh silly one! What would you say if I wrote that on your blog oh silly one?!

    I feel as though I don’t HAVE an accent, oh silly me also, because I’ve never spent much time in a place where my way of speaking was much different perhaps. But I do have an instantaneous reaction when I find out people are Catholic – not that I am one anymore – but I was and so that’s a whole background and history that I understand and that I know will be understood.

    I think some of this came out in our Canadian election with people’s response to Stephanne Dion, who has a pretty thick Quebecois accent. He’s VERY smart and most people know it, but many folks I talked to said they just couldn’t believe that a guy who spoke English so badly really had any brains. Arrrgghhh, but people can’t help their initial responses. THINK ABOUT IT is all I say.

    LOVE YA Sistah J. Because you DO think about it!

  3. Alright! I’ve never had anyone tell me to NOT shut up before…LOL!! You make me think, which is why I love your blog. And only one of the reasons why I love you. Take care & have a beautiful day.

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