Until 2015, Hillary Clinton’s popularity was average and far from polarizing. By November 2016, many Americans considered her to be evil and a threat to national security. What happened? What motivates people in a democracy to consider anyone who opposes their favorite candidate a criminal? And how can we overcome such divisive processes? The Theory of Moral provides answers.
Why did Trump supporters want to lock up Hillary Clinton?
When a reporter asked Trump supporters who they will want to lock up in 2020, they said, “Whoever’s running against him!”
As this statement indicates, the reasons why Trump supporters wanted to lock up Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with her but everything with the fact that she was running against Trump. Trump supporters wanted to lock up whoever was running against him in 2016, too.
In 2015 and 2016, Hillary Clinton held no public office but campaigned against Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States. Trump’s campaign was based on an idea with a high moral quantity, which was the reason for the increased hatred against Clinton.
Ideas with a high moral quantity are political ideas that are based on badly adapted micro-level ideas. Micro level ideas originate from our daily interactions with other people. When we allow a micro-level idea to guide our political decisions (our decisions regarding the macro level), we unintentionally support destructive political movements.
Let’s look at an example:
- The idea that it is right to help others is a micro-level idea. When we adapt it to the macro level, we can easily be tricked into always supporting more redistribution.
- The idea that it is wrong to steal is a micro-level idea, too. When we adapt it to the macro level, we can easily be tricked into always supporting less redistribution.
Most people base their opinions on redistribution on one of these two beliefs. The result is an increasingly heated debate. Even when the government changes the tax rate, almost all people remain steadfast in their opinion – they still want more or less redistribution. Lacking a clear target for what they consider right, they always want more or less – they have become totalitarians. In a constructive democratic debate, every change in tax rates should push some people from one side of the debate to the other.
The problem with this style of debate is that when we consider our beliefs good and just, anyone who thinks differently becomes evil. And when our views are totalitarian, there will be a lot of people who disagree with us.
When we believe that a political candidate represents perfect goodness, other candidates become infinitely evil threats. Any means to fight these threats seems legitimate – even if they include jailing political opponents.
This is why Trump supporters will want to lock up whoever is running against him in 2020. The structure of their idea forces any challenger into the role of an infinitely evil threat, and they want to fight this threat at all costs.
How can we have more peaceful political debates?
To avoid considering our political opponents as infinitely evil threats, we must understand that our own beliefs are not the embodiment of goodness.
Studies have shown that party affiliation is mostly inherited. Identical twins that grew up in different environments are significantly more similar in their political beliefs than two random people. The shared genetic makeup is the only possible explanation for these findings.
Similarly, even toddlers can make individually unique moral judgements. Without experiences to shape their beliefs, these different judgements must stem from their genes.
Psychologists have also proven that we use moral reasoning after we have arrived at a judgement, not before. The judgement is an intuitive, subconscious result of our genes and experiences. Moral reasoning is a tool to convince others of our ideas, not a tool to find the truth.
We are well-advised to take our beliefs with a grain of salt. They are far from a perfectly rational reflection of the real world, but a heavily distorted view of what is going on, filtered through our own biases and imperfections.
People with different moral judgements are neither evil nor a threat to society. They simply have different biases and genetically enforced filters. We have no right to force our beliefs on them, and morality is no justification for violence or other forms of coercion.
Is everything morally acceptable?
Recognizing the limitations of our morality has led many philosophers to argue in favor of emotivism, a world view that considers all moral judgements equally subjective and distorted. Emotivism even expands this principle to murder and other forms of suffering. If you consider murder wrong, emotivists would argue that you are simply guided by your own distorted view of morality, which is impossible to serve as a guideline for anyone’s behavior but you.
The Theory of Moral Duality is not an emotivist idea. Its great advantage is that it allows us to acknowledge the limitations of our mental process while still providing concrete guidelines for constructive political decisions.
The Theory of Moral Duality argues that there are certain things we can know for sure, and that these things should our guide political decisions. These things are:
- We all want to survive. Regardless of which political goals a person has, they can only reach these goals when they are alive. Therefore, guaranteeing survival must be the first and most important goal of a government. When the government is indifferent to a person’s survival, this person can’t possibly be expected to support this government. Some people would rebel, and since they face death if their rebellion fails, they would never surrender. Society would fall apart.
- We all want access to society. A person that is excluded from society has no reason to support it – a house divided against itself can’t stand. Societies that exclude a group of people, directly or indirectly, will sooner or later face opposition and revolts. They can only suppress these revolts or change their policies. In the first case, the government becomes destructive; in the second, there is no reason to ever have these laws.
Ideas that can survive within these limitations are constructive. They leave enough room for our different moral beliefs and force nobody to rebel.
Ideas that violate these limitations are destructive. They will foster division, violence, and tear society apart. Most of Donald Trump’s idea are of this category, which explains the willingness of his supporters to jail his opponents and violently fight his critics.
- The reasons why Trump supporters want to lock up Hillary Clinton have nothing to do with her. They are the result of the ideas for which Trump stands.
- Ideas that create constructive societies accept every person’s rights to survival and access to societies. Ideas that violate one or both of these rights are destructive and tear society apart.
- Most of Trump’s ideas are destructive, which explains his supporters’ willingness to jail his opponents and resort to violence.