Red and Blue and Diversity

About a fringe notion to split the US into separate nations of red and blue states; and about the range of human nature and the value of diversity.

Haven’t run this item yet; it seemed so fringe, a couple days ago. But reactions are still echoing, two days later.

Via, Fox News 20 Feb 2023: “Rep. Taylor Greene suggests ‘national divorce’ on Presidents Day, subtitled “Georgia congresswoman calls to ‘separate by red states and blue states'”

“Everyone I talk to says this,” MTG is quoted from her tweet. Which says a lot more about her than it does about who supports this idea. Other tweets quoted: Denver Riggleman, “I would think that this alone would disqualify a sitting member of Congress from serving on the Committee for Homeland Security.” And Tom Nichols (whom I’ve reviewed): “The Sedition Caucus not even trying to hide it.”

The very first reason this is a nonsensical idea is that there are actually no “red states” or “blue states.” It would be much more accurate to say that there are blue cities and red rural areas. Not so easy to split those up. Red states have big cities that are blue; blue states have rural areas that are red (like northeastern California, or eastern Washington and Oregon, and presumably the Georgia area that put MTG into office).

AlterNet, Maya Boddie, 22 Feb 2023: ‘Loony right’: Mitt Romney labels Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ‘national divorce’ demand as ‘insanity’

Details are predictably extremist: MTG Lays Out Her Plan To Dissolve US: For Red States, Public School Prayers, Ban Everything Gay, No Dildos

This post has a long excerpt from her plan, posted on Twitter, with predictable elements of reality denial, e.g. “Red states would not have to abide by climate cult lies. Red states would be completely free to build and use fossil fuel energy for their citizens. Oil, natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power would very likely be growing strong energy sources for red states.” One could challenge her misunderstandings and misrepresentations in virtually every paragraph. But life is short.

MTG defends her proposal: My “Movement” To Dissolve The US Is Bigger Than You Realize, It Got Lots Of Likes And Retweets

OK, then.


Most substantial item today:

Salon, Chauncey DeVega, 22 Feb 2023: The science behind why conservatives are so easily triggered, subtitled “Curiously, it is the same reason why they are best equipped for the meme wars”


Across the right-wing propaganda and disinformation echo chamber, or perhaps even in person, you have likely encountered the following phrase: “I drink liberal tears.”

Those four words and their many variations are not harmless or empty. It’s not just a joke or forced type of humor by self-styled “edge lords” and other right-wing disruptors and provocateurs. “I drink liberal tears” is an embodiment of a political worldview that is fascist, authoritarian and anti-human.

The article draws heavily from earlier pieces at Vice and at MIT Technology Review, then to new research about “how conservatives and liberals have divergent views and understandings of rationality and emotions.” With this:

“Our findings suggest though that liberals view emotion as a feature of rationality while conservatives view it as a bug. Across three studies, liberals viewed emotion as more functional than conservatives – that is, as a healthy source of information about the self that provides direction in life rather than as a weakness and a waste of time,” the study authors concluded.

The Salon writer, DeVega, goes on to comment — and here we get to the characterization of conservatives I’ve gradually gathered in recent years, especially via Jonathan Haidt and others — thusly:

Of course, conservatives are not more “rational” than liberals. The evidence actually suggests the opposite, that conservatives may in fact be more “emotional” in their decision-making approach to political and other social matters. Neuroscientists, social psychologists, and other researchers have shown that the brains of conservative authoritarians are more sensitive to fear and threat than are the brains of liberals.

As compared to liberals, conservatives also have the following traits:

  • An intolerance for ambiguity and rejection of complexity.
  • A tendency to fixate more on unpleasant objects and thoughts (negativity bias).

Conservatives are also driven by death anxieties and existential fears about safety from some type of other. In addition, conservatives have a social dominance orientation to their behavior which translates into a desire for fixed and rigid social hierarchies and in-group and out-group arrangements in society. They reject democracy for that reason and are subsequently attracted to strongman leaders and autocratic regimes because they incorrectly believe that they are simple, orderly and efficient.

Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition. Sexism and racism are key elements of that decision-making process and are reflected in how conservatives view the relationship between emotions and government. Mediated by a belief in “traditional gender roles,” conservatives tend to stereotype women as being “overly emotional.” This translates into a rejection of governmental policies and leaders that are deemed to be “feminine” because they are seen as modeling traits of care and concern and empathy.

And so on.

To be clear: I’m always trying to take the big picture. Describing the traits of “conservatives” or “liberals” is a sort of upside down way of describing the range along a spectrum, or along several criss-crossing spectra, of human moral intuitions. (Again, see Haidt’s six moral foundations, discussed here.) It’s essential to understand why these ranges of moral variations exists in the first place. It’s all about diversity. It’s because environments continually change, and a species, especially a complex one like our own, needs to be flexible in order to survive as circumstances change, sometimes requiring one set of responses, sometimes another set. That’s why diversity of all kinds is valuable.

Thus, humans with certain tendencies are called conservatives, others with different tendencies might be called liberals, and others with different blends or mixed of traits can’t be described by either.

And why authoritarian efforts to impose uniformity on a society, or separate out diversity by splitting a nation into good/bad, red/blue states, will not endure. Circumstances change, and rigid societies cannot deal with change, and eventually fail.

Thus the forces of separation and uniformity must be guarded against, dissuaded from their simple-minded, short-term, selfish thinking. As this article ends:

Ultimately, “I drink liberal tears” and the types of politics and values it represents and encourages is fundamentally a claim about power and authority. Conservatives do not believe in real freedom or democracy. Those who disagree with them are to be silenced if not crushed outright. The lie that conservatives are more “rational” than liberals is a way of naturalizing fascism and other forms of authoritarianism. In the end, there is nothing to debate or discuss — which is one of the defining features of a healthy democracy — because “conservatives” and fascists and other authoritarians imagine themselves as homo superior and all other people are inferior and therefore need to be dominated and subjugated.

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