Sunday, November 6, 2016

Women Make Up 53% of Voters. The GOP Is the Party of White Men. Why?

Republicans are primarily white Christian conservatives. There's a reason the party's politicians are men. It's not a mystery.

An American? Yes. A Trump voter? No.

The picture I chose, that of a Muslim-American voter, doesn't prove my general view. But it does prove it sideways: American Muslims, who are by any measure conservative and patriarchal, should be an easy reach for the Republican Party. That they are, as a voting bloc, almost permanently alienated from the GOP says volumes about the demographic lockout by the party.

My main point, that there's a reason why the Republicans are the party of white men, does take a little unpacking, but not much. In fact, I can make it with one sentence: White Christian conservatives, in large part, believe in authoritarian paternalism.

You remember that old TV show, "Father Knows Best," don't you? Well, you can bet your parents and grandparents do, which is why the elderly trend conservative Republican. They like the good ole days, when men were men and women were pregnant.

Liberals, on the other hand, endorse the nurturing parent model. The dichotomy, well explained and documented by George Lakoff, professor of cognitive science at UC Berkeley, between these two models helps explain the politics -- and the sociology -- of the two parties.

(A modest aside: Of course one generalizes when making larger points. I know some seniors are liberals and some gays and atheists are conservatives, but, as they say, the exception proves the rule.)

Lakoff contrasts the two models, that he calls strict father and nurturant parent. First, look at the strict father model:
 The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.
Then look at the nurturant parent model:
Children are taught self-discipline in the service of nurturance: to take care of themselves, to deal with existing hardships, to be responsible to others, and to realize their potential. Children are also taught self-nurturance: the intrinsic value of emotional connection with others, of health, of education, of art, of communion with the natural world, and of being able to take care of oneself. In addition to learning the discipline required for responsibility and self-nurturance, it is important that children have a childhood, that they learn to develop their imaginations, and that they just plain have fun.
Through empathizing and interacting positively with their children, parents develop close bonds with children and teach them empathy and responsibility towards others and toward society. Nurturant parents view the family as a community in which children have commitments and responsibilities that grow out of empathy for others. The obedience of children comes out of love and respect for parents, not out of fear of punishment. When children do wrong, nurturant parents choose restitution over retribution whenever possible as a form of justice. Retribution is reserved for those who harm their children.
A key difference is that women are included as equals in the nurturant parent model. This explains why the Republican Party has so few women in elective office. And that number is shrinking while diversity is expanding among Democrats. In fact, according to the Pew Center, the younger, more highly educated, and more in favor of Hillary Clinton you are, the more you appreciate diversity in the U.S.

For a complete set of George Lakoff's views, read this group of essays. Also, I'm not surprised to find that Lakoff has a mouthful to say about Donald Trump, which he does here, here, here, and here.

Lakoff explains why we tend to nation-alize our family concepts:
The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).
What do social issues and the politics have to do with the family? We are first governed in our families, and so we grow up understanding governing institutions in terms of the governing systems of families.
That's way more than I meant to say, but if you explore what George Lakoff says about parenting, politics, and, by extension, Donald Trump, you will learn an awful lot of useful stuff, much of it expressive of my view. Conservatives want to dominate and punish -- the purview of the strict father -- while liberals want to nurture the nation and spread the wealth around and trust that the kids are alright. We're not called bleeding hearts for nothing.

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