[I]t is reasonable to hypothesize that individuals who are physiologically and psychologically responsive to negative stimuli will tend to endorse public policies that minimize tangible threats by giving prominence to past, traditional solutions, which assumes those options are adequately suited for the newer challenges by limiting human discretion (or endorsing institutions, such as the free market, that do not require generosity, discretion, and altruism), by being protective, by promoting ingroups relative to out-groups, and by embracing strong, unifying policies and authority figures.
Is there any reasonable dispute that much of the commentary and behaviors of those occupying the far-Right provides strong validation of that conclusion? Will it ever dawn on at least some of them that a bit of introspection might be a worthwhile pursuit now and then? Continuing to rely on the [instinctive] tried and true may have its psychological and emotional advantages, but there are consequences associated with ignoring important facts, considerations, and the occasional necessity of change.
Remaining silent in the face of hostile, inaccurate, judgmental, and unjustified attacks on others is to acquiesce and endorse. We’ve done enough of that as it is. Just check your local political news sources if you doubt the results. Continuing to do more of the same isn’t exactly the best option to producing more advantageous outcomes.
This is all further confirmation of what researchers have generally concluded about the conservative personality [for lack of a better, professionally-endorsed term]. That assessment is summarized below [with apologies for an excessive amount of jargon. Links/citations in the original]. Bold/italics are mine:
We regard political conservatism as an ideological belief system that is significantly (but not completely) related to motivational concerns having to do with the psychological management of uncertainty and fear. Specifically, the avoidance of uncertainty (and the striving for certainty) may be particularly tied to one core dimension of conservative thought, resistance to change. Similarly, concerns with fear and threat may be linked to the second core dimension of conservatism, endorsement of inequality. Although resistance to change and support for inequality are conceptually distinguishable, we have argued that they are psychologically interrelated, in part because motives pertaining to uncertainty and threat are interrelated….[W]e argue that a number of different epistemic motives (dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity; cognitive complexity; closed-mindedness; uncertainty avoidance; needs for order, structure, and closure), existential motives (self-esteem, terror management, fear, threat, anger, and pessimism), and ideological motives (self-interest, group dominance, and system justification) are all related to the expression of political conservatism. Now we draw on the perspective of motivated social cognition to advance the integrative argument that epistemic, existential, and ideological motives are themselves interrelated.
Theoretical and empirical considerations lead us to conclude that virtually all of the above motives originate in psychological attempts to manage uncertainty and fear. These, in turn, are inherently related to the two core aspects of conservative thought mentioned earlier—resistance to change and the endorsement of inequality. The management of uncertainty is served by resistance to change insofar as change (by its very nature) upsets existing realities and is fraught with epistemic insecurity. Fear may be both a cause and a consequence of endorsing inequality; it breeds and justifies competition, dominance struggles, and sometimes, violent strife. Epistemic motives, by definition, govern the ways in which people seek to acquire beliefs that are certain and that help to navigate social and physical worlds that are threateningly ambiguous, complex, novel, and chaotic. Thus, epistemic needs affect the style and manner by which individuals seek to overcome uncertainty and the fear of the unknown.
[From: Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition by John T. Jost Stanford University; Arie W. Kruglanski University of Maryland at College Park; Jack Glaser University of California, Berkeley; Frank J. Sulloway University of California, Berkeley. Psychological Bulletin Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 2003, Vol. 129, No. 3, 339–375]
As I’ve discussed previously, in and of themselves those personality inclinations cannot be judged as wrong or bad. What standard could one use to make that claim? But how those characteristics are then employed in the real world where actions and beliefs affect others both positively and negatively, is a fair target to critique and criticize.
Understanding the foundation from which conservative thoughts, principles, beliefs, and behaviors originate is an important first step [just as it is in understanding the liberal/progressive personality]. If, from the progressive side, the expressions of conservative id were more rational, calmer, and derived not from a steady diet of manufactured fears and anxieties fed to the public, we might be inclined to tone down our contributions to the conflict. We’d all almost certainly see a significantly diminished level of animosity and take-no-prisoners approaches which have now become the unfortunate and unpleasant norm.
Now might be a good time to start unpacking the motivations and beliefs of each camp so that we first have a better appreciation for why our political opponents think, feel, believe, say, and behave as they do. That would quickly lead to a recognition that the overwhelming majority of those “others” are not actually Satan incarnate, but good, decent, concerned citizens with different needs and perspectives. What’s even more likely to be realized is that we all want essentially the same things: a peaceful, successful, rewarding, and prosperous existence for themselves and the generations to follow.
We could have worse objectives….In fact, we do!
Adapted from a recent blog post of mine