Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Crisis of My Political Faith?

All my adult life I have considered myself socially conservative and labeled myself a Republican.  Listening to conservative pundits, I occasionally would disagree with their spin.  I did become disappointed with the ineffectiveness of national Republican administrations and congresses, but I've read the platform of the Utah Republican Party several times and have taken issue with no part of it.

I'm starting to think, though, that the labels I happily accepted do not mean what I think they mean.

This week, I completed an online survey at  The surveys they offer are conducted by social psychologists at three universities.  Their research looks at why people disagree about what is right, and how that translates into social and political values.  I took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, which gave a broad overview of my morals.  The results surprised me.

At the end of the survey, the site gave a bar graph showing my results ranked against the average results of self-described liberals and conservatives.  In only two out of nine rankings did I come close to the conservative morals.  Two of the bar graphs put my values in line with Libertarians.  The other five bars were either in between conservative and liberal results, or well beneath both.  

These results piqued my curiosity, and I wondered if perhaps a political party other than the big two would reflect my political values more.  So I read up on Libertarians, since my Liberty and Property scores seemed to be in line with them.  I like some of their ideals, but I don't believe their ideals can be realistically applied to society.  I'm not Libertarian.  The Green Party doesn't fit me well either.  (Although, I am giving ear to a friend of mine who says that greed too easily overwhelms our stewardship for the environment and animals.  Can I give up my desire for Utah to develop its energy resources in favor of protecting species?  That remains to be seen.)

So where do I fit?  I think maybe I don't.  Kent gave me a link to an interesting TED talk by Jonathan Haidt, who is one of the researchers behind the Moral Foundations survey: "The moral roots of liberal and conservatives."  Though he is a self-proclaimed liberal, Haidt wraps up his short lecture by insisting that both sides of the political spectrum need to listen to each other.  Liberals consider themselves open-minded and diverse, yet if they are closed to conservative viewpoints, their open-mindedness goes out the window.  I agree that both sides need to be present in our society, but more importantly, they need to make compromises politically if we are ever going to make lasting progress.

I guess that means I'm more of a moderate independent.

So will I renege my Republican registration?  Not in Utah; especially not here in Utah County.  In this state, the only way to have a voice with my vote is to work through the Republican primary process, since it will almost always be a Republican who wins.  At each November vote, I can still vote for whatever candidate I like (and it hasn't always been the Republican), but at least I might get a good candidate through the primary elections.

I haven't voted yet, because I'm undecided on our local school board candidates.  However, for our national leader, I will be voting for Mitt Romney.  Even if Mitt weren't the candidate, I would almost certainly still vote against Barack Obama.  In a nutshell, here's why.

My vote for Romney:
Major reason:  I liked Mitt Romney during the primaries leading up to the 2008 election.  It's not because he shares my religious persuasion, but because I respect him as a businessman.  I have wanted a businessman (or woman) in the White House for many years.  I think a businessperson will have an understanding of and solutions for our economy that lawyers and politicians just won't grasp or believe.  Romney's track record in turning around corporations and giving the U.S. a profitable Winter Olympics leads me to believe that he can do a better job for our economy than most anyone else who has been presented as a presidential option.  I expect he'll make budget cuts that will hurt, but that will also make Americans take more responsibility for their own decisions.  Yes, I would even give up the EITC or the Child Tax Credit if that would help balance our budget.  I also believe he has the right business and leadership experience to negotiate trade relations with China and other countries that we must work with.

Minor reason:  I like the people Mitt Romney surrounds himself with.  I like Paul Ryan, and I like that Mitt's family members are the ones reaching out to his base.

My vote against Obama:
Major reason:  I don't believe he represents Americans well or has America's best interests at heart.  I don't generally like how he handles international affairs.  I don't like his extravagant parties and vacations in the midst of our tanking economy.  I don't like his position on abortion.  (He and Michelle Obama are more left on that issue than even many liberals).  He has said things that I agree with, and I'm trying to give Obamacare the benefit of the doubt, but overall I don't think he represents the majority of Americans, including many who voted for him as a symbol of a new American era in 2008 based on his race and his "Hope and Change" campaign.  

Minor reason:  I don't trust the people President Obama surrounds himself with.  His close ties with Planned Parenthood and Acorn make me nervous.  Van Jones and Reverend Wright are also not good people to have listened to.  His extensive use of teleprompters has me wondering how much of what he says comes from his own brain. newly self-labeled Independent mind feels better already.  Now that all that political stuff is off my chest, I can go vote on Tuesday and take my blog back to happier posts about family events, funny kids, and the upcoming holidays.


Nate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

I tried to edit the comment and it deleted - this is what I wrote.

I thought your post was interesting so I decided to take the same survey and see what I came up with.

As I was filling out the questions, I couldn't help but think about the missing context around each question. Of course I believe in helping the disadvantaged, having compassion, chastity, fairness, having some sense of order, etc. - but I also don't believe that it is government's place to regulate all of these things.

I also believe in contextual rather than absolute morality. The classic Book of Mormon example is Nephi and Laban. It isn't ok to kill a human being - except for those times it is. It isn't ok to treat others unfairly but it infringes on my individual liberty and freedom of expression to have a government that truly forces everyone to be "fair."

I think the 2-party system covers up the fact that none of us are robots - we make decisions every day that may go completely contrary to a political platform statement. There are certain, specific hot button items that we attach to - based on our personal, religious, and social context.

I wouldn't be surprised if my answers to any individual question switched 2+ slots based solely on topics I was reading, things happening in my personal life, or just whatever context I invented to justify my answer.

I'm also 100% convinced that at least some of my "Libertarian-leaning" answers relate directly to some very opinionated guys I work with and discussions I have had with them.

I'm not super political by nature - I also don't think that there is a perfect political party any more than I think there is a perfect person.

The biggest reason I've been torn on a few of the candidates is that I'm sick of the negative campaigning on both sides. I want to hear about what you believe and how you'll vote when called upon- I don't want to know how bad option 2 is - Tell me about what you stand for so I can determine if that lines up with what I think will best represent my interests.

By the way, our scores were fairly similar.

Harm: 2.2, Fairness: 2.5, Loyalty: 3.0, Authority: 3.3, Purity: 4.2.

Proportionality: 3.4, Equality: 1.0, Liberty: 3.2, Property: 2.5.

You'll notice that both of us have 7/10 categories within .5 of the middle. A 5 point scale will inherently gravitate towards the middle (expect on things that you clearly feel strongly about).

Our country is not one of extremes. Most of us are actually in the middle somewhere. 47% of Americans didn't vote for Obama the first time - and I bet a similar percentage won't this time.

Thanks for posting this - It was an interesting exercise for me.

Mary said...

Even though Nate and I already talked about his comment in person, I am including a few thoughts in response in case they are interesting to anyone else.

I too had to decide how to respond to certain questions on the survey as well. I decided to take the questions literally and not read into them whether they were asking questions about application in government. On a few questions I had to not answer according to whether the situations were realistic in practice or not, but just take it at face value. That might explain why my Liberty score was so high. I was at first surprised that my LDS friends, who value free agency as part of our religion, did not score nearly as high as I did. I think it's because we answered those questions from a different approach. I know, too, that some of my answers came from contexts that won't always be current for me. (For example, I answered the military question with thoughts of the Navy Seals in Benghazi on my mind.)

I highly recommend the TED video I linked in the post. It gives a broader view of what the researchers are finding.

I'm glad you found the survey and results interesting, Nate.