Exposing the Right clued me in to this Alternet article, Grappling With the Politics of Fear. This is an absolute must-read article, delving into the psychology behind progressive and right-wing thinking, and how the way we think of family helps determine our political perspective.
“According to George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley University cognitive scientist and author of “Moral Politics,” the anxiety-provoking anti-terrorism actions and messages of fear of the Bush administration fall into the category of the “strict father” mode of communication.
Lakoff concludes that the country is dramatically split between two ways of understanding the world. Some see this division as political – conservative vs. liberal. But Lakoff argues that it is ultimately a moral division, one derived from how people envision the right kind of family. Hence it is also a personal division.
Lakoff believes that the “strict father” mode is at the bedrock of conservative ideology. This morality “assigns highest priority to such things as moral strength … respect for and obedience to authority [and] the setting and following of strict guidelines of behavioral norms.” Nurturant parent morality, by contrast, “requires empathy for others and the helping of those who need help. To help others, one must take care of oneself and nurture social ties.” This morality provides the basis for progressive/liberal ideology.
Clearly, in this post-Clinton period, where a fundamental assumption is that the world is a dangerous place, and people must be protected, the strict-father worldview is in ascendance. And the conservatives know it, and they know how to use it.
As Lakoff underscores, “Over the past thirty years conservatives have poured billions of dollars into their think tanks. They have articulated the system of moral and family values that unifies conservatives; they have created appropriate language for their vision; they have disseminated it throughout the media; and they have developed a coherent political program to fit their values.” Lakoff argues that this infrastructure of ideas and values is the essential reason “for the success that conservatives have been enjoying, despite the fact that they appear to be the minority.”
Please go read this article. There is much more. I spent actual money and braved a dial-up connection (ugh!) to post this.