Much digital ink has been spilled over recent findings that political affiliations may have a neurological basis. When making decisions, Democrats show a strong tendency to activate the left insula, and Republicans an even stronger tendency to activate the right amygdala.
In doing so, it has been determined that the typical slander of each side towards the other is actually correct. Classical conservatives are indeed dealing with a reaction based on warding off perceived threats — when Democrats say that Conservatives are fear-mongering dogmatic bigots… the neuroscience tends to agree. Conservatives, on the other hand, typically say “there’s no point in arguing with a liberal; they don’t bother listening to anything you say.” And neurally, that seems to be supported, too. The liberal is arguing based on an internal emotional self-assessment — his mind is, in fact, made up long before the argument ever begins.
Each of the two sides has used this study to lob harpoons at the other, but that misses the point. Neural differences like this are as much a feature of biology as being left or right-handed, and every bit as much biologically-determined as having black hair or blue eyes. Biological differences such as this have to be adaptive if they’ve survived. In short, when a liberal wonders what planet a conservative comes from, and a conservative wonders how a liberal can possibly be a liberal, neurally speaking all they’re doing is recognizing that there’s something fundamentally different about “the other side” that IS, in fact, alien to their own experience.
That offers interesting possibilities. In previous times, governments have handled two fundamentally-incompatible cultures by allowing each to live under its own set of laws, with mediating rules between them allowing the power exercising suzerainty to maintain political control and thus peace. This is a fairly common feature of pluralistic empires in both the ancient and modern world (c.f. Persian and Austro-Hungarian empires).
Could this be done in the United States? I think the answer is a resounding “no.”
- Amercians are simply not emotionally-mature enough to live amicably side-by-side with people who are living under a different set of laws. Conservative thought offends liberals, and vice-versa, and the libertarian “live-and-let-live” position offends each side even more than their opponents do. (Liberals are horrified that we sometimes agree with them, conservatives feel betrayed that we don’t always agree with them).
- Who gains the spoils, politically speaking? Neither group will tolerate the rule of the other, and it is difficult to see how a moderating group could arise which was not either based on pure power (psychopathic European aristocrats), or else faux meritocracy masquerading as a technocracy of the elite (“non-political” mandarins such as Imperial China).
- Such a division couldn’t be made as suggested over on Addicting-Info, because when one checks counties, one finds that these differences tend to equate strongly with the urban/rural divide (No suprise, conservatives are bigoted hicks who can’t survive in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. No surprise, liberals are cosseted weenies who can’t survive outside except inside their comfortable urban blankies, etc etc ad nauseam infinitam.)
- Us libertarian types, who tend to light-up neurologically in an even different way, are skrood. We’re too tiny to get represented well and would be forced into a straitjacket that fits badly no matter which side we wound up with.
So, if we can’t create a “two laws” modus-vivendi that recognizes the inherent legitimacy and dignity of “the other side,” then we have a real problem. We effectively have regionally-competing tribes who cannot recognize themselves within The Other, and thus have no reason to avoid acting in ways which are actively detrimental to the other tribe. So what we have is long-term political proxy warfare as a cover for neurological biological diversity. That’s a depressing thought, and leads to an inescapable conclusion:
If one cannot readily convert a liberal to a conservative, and vice-versa, the only way to gain long-lasting political dominance is for one side to out-breed the other.
Welcome to our dark future, where we’re resigned either to long-lasting political gridlock…or else engaging in open demographic competition.