Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can Liberals and Conservatives Ever Understand Each Other

"Can't we all just get along."

These words - a frantic plea really - from Rodney King after the LA riots have almost become a punch line in contemporary America.  And, of course, the recent never-ending campaign season did nothing to soothe the divide among the American people.

Writer Stephanie Pappas investigates the dubious nature of our political in-fighting, and she cites some great insight from the obscure field of "political psychology."  Basically, liberals and conservatives simply see the world differently and emphasize different values.

The most important avenue on the way to consensus and understanding is the ability to see the other point of view.  And psychologists advise asking questions and listening to answers as a way to move in that direction.  People establish their views based on six domains:

  • Care versus harm
  • Fairness versus cheating
  • Liberty and oppression
  • Loyalty and betrayal
  • Authority versus subversion
  • Sanctity versus degradation.
As a recovering Republican, I became a disgruntled Democrat.  Now, I'm a unencumbered independent, which is why I did not see the election of either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama as the Second Coming or the End of the World.  Perhaps, this recent election - which surprised many Democrats and shocked lots of Republicans - is a step toward trying to reach consensus.  Goodness knows if John Boehner can start talking compromise, we all can, too.

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