This is the tenth of an 18-part series that explores our deep cultural divide and offers 10 suggestions about how we can contribute to bridging the divide.
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
Suggestion #7: Traditionalists Have an Advantage, pt. 1
Traditionalists and progressives have different personality traits, partially inherited and also socially and culturally influenced. Conservatives tend to be cognitively fixed, favor hierarchy, and are wary of uncertainty, change, and differences. When people vote for conservative candidates they do so because the candidates often offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that helps alleviate the voter’s deep seated fears and distrusts.
Democrats, in contrast, are more open to novel experiences and more readily accept change and diversity than traditionalists. Progressive candidates appeal to voters’ reasoning capabilities and offer detailed policy proposals with long-winded explorations of policy options that are superimposed on a complex and shifting world.
Progressive ways of thinking—reason, logic, analysis, and objectivity—are encouraged by our educational system and are valued as superior to emotional ways of thinking. Educational tests score students’ analytical abilities in which those with the highest scores are awarded prestigious college slots and academic recognition. Thus, progressives often think their logical, analytical ways of thinking and being are at the top of the moral order and dismiss those who are different. This ranking of ways of thinking is discriminatory but it is so well entrenched in society that it prevails unchallenged. It also gives progressives an elitist air that traditionalists disdain.
Progressives often explain away conservative successes as aberrant and convince themselves that they hold the moral high ground. Since they have self-determined who is among the educational elite, progressives have decided that there is nothing to learn from other worldviews. This blinds progressives to the fact that, as Haidt explains, “one of the main reasons that so many Americans voted Republican over the last 30 years: they honestly prefer the Republican vision of a moral order to the one offered by Democrats. To see what Democrats have been missing, it helps to take off the halo.”
Republicans have become the party of the sacred, appropriating issues of God, faith, and religion, but also sacred symbols of the nation such as the flag, military, and constitution. The progressives, on the other hand, have become the party of secular lifestyles and material interests. Haidt points out that “Democrats often seem to think of voters as consumers; they rely on polls to choose a set of policy positions that will convince 51% of the electorate to buy. Most Democrats don’t understand that politics is more like religion than it is like shopping.”
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences—scholarly research, teaching, reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development trainings, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, developing globally-focused books and educational resources. She has written seven books, blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing a program called Turn—transformative understanding and reflection network—that encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, shift perspectives, and understand the balance in all things. She teaches classes and writes about cross-cultural awareness, indigenous wisdom, a transformative worldview, learning from the past, a mythic journey, and transforming travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books