126.96.36.199 Personal Morality Translated into Political Attitudes
The tension between individualists and collectivists was noted near the start of this book (2.2) as an example of people’s inherent diversity. Similarly, people may be innately conservative or they may be inclined to be progressive in their attitudes towards change. Some may have religious convictions. These differences translate into political opinions.
By entering politics, or by choosing which politicians to support, or by indicating their acceptance or not of government policy, people’s moral attitudes are translated into political power. They empower the politicians who take decisions on their behalf, and they might wish to advocate specific policies on some issues irrespective of the political party that they belong to. Moral attitudes ultimately drive society’s decisions on many major questions:
● The vexed question of whether women should be legally allowed to have abortions became politicised. As explained by Reuters, How abortion became a divisive issue in U.S. politics, “the issue has become one of the defining fault lines in U.S. politics, with Democratic politicians firmly supporting abortion rights and Republican lawmakers lining up in opposition”.
● Feelings can be very strong, particularly on the role of government in providing publicly funded socio-economic benefits. People see this as a moral issue, as described in a Northern Illinois University article: NIU sociologist Jeffrey Kidder leads new study that finds everyday tax talk is ‘morally charged’. In democracies their attitudes translate into support for political parties, as shown in a Pew Research survey: Why people are rich and poor: Republicans and Democrats have very different views.
● As A.C. Grayling explained, in an article Ed Miliband is right and wrong about poverty, financial inequality is an “ethical consideration” separate from poverty; he noted that “In their examination of the question, The Spirit Level (2009), Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make an unanswerable case for saying that excessive inequality heightens levels of distrust, anxiety, illness and over-consumption”. Political policy towards inequality is discussed later (6.7.2).
● People’s empathy with, and sense of moral duty towards, refugees can legitimise the political decisions (188.8.131.52) to accept them and provide the necessary resources. For example, a Guardian report in September 2015 was headed Cameron bows to pressure to let in more Syrian refugees.
There are numerous other aspects of political policy where people’s moral attitudes determine the support they give to the politicians who are entrusted with decision-making.
Some enter politics with the express purpose of promoting their religious convictions, as is the case with Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence – described in a Guardian article, ‘Brought to Jesus’: the evangelical grip on the Trump administration: “both cite evangelical theology as a powerful motivating force”, and it “directly colours views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and indirectly, attitudes towards Iran” for example.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4341.htm