How research in political psychology explains the fierce clashes between Republican and Democrats in our polarized system.
In October, 2010, Thomas B. Edsall wrote a story for The New Republic -- "Limited War: How the age of austerity will remake American politics" -- that took a look at the resource war that animates so much of contemporary politics. That article is now a book, The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, published by Doubleday. In an excerpt, below, Edsall explores the research into the characteristics of the partisans increasingly squabbling over government funding in America.
The contest for power between Democrats and Republicans pits two antithetical value systems against each other; two conflicting concepts of freedom, liberty, fairness, right, and wrong; two mutually exclusive notions of the state, the individual, and the collective good.
A wide range of academic scholarship exploring political belief-formation reveals that those who identify themselves as politically conservative, for example, exhibit distinctive values underpinning their world view and their orientation towards political competition.
Conservatives, argues researcher Philip Tetlock of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, are less tolerant of compromise; see the world in "us" versus "them" terms; are more willing to use force to gain an advantage; are "more prone to rely on simple (good vs. bad) evaluative rules in interpreting policy issues;" 1 are "motivated to punish violators of social norms (e.g., deviations from traditional norms of sexuality or responsible behavior) and to deter free riders." 2