After the Election, Fear Is Our Only Chance at Unity –

A superb illustration of the theory of collective security–in which an attack on one is an attack on all.  From an individual and group level, it helps to have a common objective, even an enemy.  In this case, Jonathan Haidt calls them “asteroids”:

A basic principle of moral psychology is that “morality binds and blinds.” In many pre-agricultural societies, groups achieved trust and unity by circling around sacred objects. In modern societies, much larger groups bind themselves together by treating certain books, flags, leaders or ideals as sacred and by symbolically circling around them. But if your team circles too fast, you lose the ability to see clearly or think for yourself. You go blind to evidence that contradicts your group’s moral consensus, and you become enraged at teammates who suggest that the other side is not entirely bad (as New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, is now finding out).

Unlike a foreign attack, a problem that threatens only one side’s sacred values can therefore divide us, rather than unite us. It’s as though a giant asteroid is headed for the Earth. One side sees it coming and screams, but the louder it screams, the more stubbornly the other side covers its ears and averts its eyes.

via After the Election, Fear Is Our Only Chance at Unity –


6 thoughts on “After the Election, Fear Is Our Only Chance at Unity –”

  1. Looking at the current state of affairs, I have to say Washington’s farewell address ought to be our political guiding light. He warned against 1) partisanship, 2) sectional divisions, and 3) foreign entanglements and permanent alliances. We’ve already had our fair share of problems from sectional divisions and unnecessary foreign entanglements. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of our permanent alliance with Israel. Partisanship, though, is the plague of modern American politics. Haidt calls it “hyperpartisanship.” Any party figure who dares venture into the waters of bipartisanship is shunned (e.g., Chris Christie: I think that deep down, most Americans want to see the cooperation captured in recent photos of the president and Gov. Christie shaking hands in Jersey in the wake of Sandy. But Haidt is right in saying that only major threats can shake us out of the partisan coma we’re in and get us to come together for a common cause. He notes the “fiscal cliff,” which out to provide more than enough fear to unite Americans. The problem is that we’ve become so blind to our financial state that we think the economy runs on magic; that somehow, we’ll find a way to skirt disaster and get back on solid ground.

  2. This is an interesting description of collective security and the rally-round-the-flag effect. I think many people are quick to jump on the bandwagon and support a candidate if they can see the move as being beneficial to them, even in the short run. An issue America faces today involves people rallying around their own political parties as opposed to the country as a whole. I don’t doubt that both democrats and republicans love America. Members of each party just choose to go about policy making a different way. As mentioned in some of the earlier posts, the author is right about how foreign threats or natural disasters remind us that we’re all connected geographically as a country and emotionally as human beings. Partisanship has no place when lives are being lost from circumstances we can’t control.

    Most people realize that partisanship makes getting work done in Washington pretty hard, but this article drives the point home.

  3. This last election has made it quite apparent that there is a problem with partisanship – my personal opinion of any political party (whether it be libertarian, green party, republican, democrat, tea party, etc.) is that it is just another convenient way for us to overgeneralize the complexities of US politics. These overgeneralized platforms have been the culprit for political prejudice. Instead of carefully weighing the options and understanding the current affairs, I would contest many Americans vote strictly for one party. This political prejudice has indeed split our nation – I don’t necessarily agree with this article that suggests that we need fear to rule. I believe that this nation needs a binding faith and hope in the future – we need a vision of a world where republicans are more than “money-loving bigots”, and democrats are more than “wealth-redistributing, environmentalist bent on socializing America”. Because when all is said and done, we all love and care for our country. I believe that it will take more than a natural disaster and fear to bind this nations, it will take love. Love for our fellow Americans, despite differing political views, and love for our great country.

    1. While I agree completely with the idea that love is a far more powerful cohesive between people, and I will preach that it is the answer until I’m blue in the face, I struggle to see a future political situation in which all Americans develop that sense for each other. What kind of event would change people so drastically that they lay aside their ideological weapons and embrace each other, short of the Second Coming? Even then, there are arguments that increasing Christian fundamentalism is one of the causes of the growing partisanship in the U.S. ( Unfortunately, I just can’t see something else doing the trick. Even with the existential threat posed by the USSR, the U.S. remained partisan, despite being united by a common fear. The unity following 9/11 quickly dissipated into political bickering. Fear, while definitely a weaker bond for people, is the more realistic cause pushing for unity in the current U.S. political climate.

  4. Right after the election, a friend of mine posted this status on Facebook about Obama, “I just sat in my room and cried. I’m truly scared for the days ahead. What happened America? What would our Founding Fathers say?.” I’ve heard many complaints from some about how terrible the Democrats are going to be and heard others say how thankful they are that a Republican isn’t going to become President in January. Its easy to see why partisanship is such a problem with comments like these. You can’t work to find a solution with someone if you automatically dismiss them because of their political party. This article discusses voters giving credit or blame based on political views: . I don’t know what the solution to partisanship should be, but I do know that the current system is not working.

  5. If I may say, our country’s bi-partisan nature disgusts me. Personally, I am all fine and dandy with the idea of political parties, I believe they provide a good vehicle for many voices to be heard, and many ideas to be shared. However, I would contest that two parties alone cannot voice the concerns of the 800 million people that are in the US. I look at the two-party system, and my friends on both sides, and I can’t help but see a failure in our electoral system. The current system we are under encourages competition between two parties, which try as hard as they can to have all the opposite opinions of the other party, whilst trying to represent as much of the country as possible. This basic nature of opposition, gives everyone in the two parties someone to hate and blame. Emotions run high, and people feel because of that, that only their party can make the country right. Fierce loyalty is the result, and exclamations of “I am moving to Canada” at the end of an election ( However, despite all of this loyalty, we are always dissatisfied. Why? Because no one party can represent the thoughts or opinions of so many people. Personally, when I vote, I feel a little like I am selling my soul no matter which party I am voting for, or in which election, because I have opinions I am fiercely loyal to on both sides of the party line.

    My solution? Lobby for electoral reform, get rid of our first-past-past-the-post system, and replace it with a proportional representation one, and get allow more voices into congress, and government. One of the biggest things are heard about voting, in this election was that many didn’t vote, it would mean nothing in their staunchly blue, or staunchly red state. Through electoral reform, everyone’s voice may have a greater chance of being heard. Then maybe we would rally around our flag, our country, and our president, rather than our party leader.

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