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Thursday, August 7, 2014

The fearful exceptionalists: Does biology pull the voting lever?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 7:29 AM

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Events last week — capped by the Ebola-panicked Jason Rapert — prompted me to mull on the fear that seems to drive so much political debate these days,

Have you ever noticed how many of the people braying about American exceptionalism and our unrivaled might are among the most afraid — the most in need of guns, the most likely to find a threat behind every prayer shawl, behind every Honduran child and behind every gay couple seeking a marriage license?

Anyway, that's my column this week. If we are really so great and mighty, what are they are so afraid of?

A reader last night sent me this link on the subject: It's from a study about the biological basis for political traits.

In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War.

Chickenhawks like Dick Cheney come to mind. (More on conservatives' "fear center" here.)

Here's the conclusion of my column, a proposal for a counter-demonstration against the open carrying gun nuts and other varieties of fraidy cats in the news of late:

Join me in a modest counter-demonstration. For the 42nd year, I intend to go to work in downtown Little Rock without a gun. I'll buy a meal from a Latino immigrant. I'll scan the legal filings for advancement of equality for gay people. I'll happily pay my taxes. And I will not fear the consequences.

UPDATE: And still more scientific research here on the wiring of liberals and conservatives.

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