In the comments on a post at JJ's about a new 'culture war' game, toujoursdan wrote:
You might find this article interesting.
Democracycorps.com: The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans
It seems clear that as society has gone through social, economic and demographic changes that have passed the right-wing by, they have retreated into ever smaller but more intense sources of information and then use the internet as an echo chamber.
I was going to blog about it and went to toujourdan's place only to find he said pretty much what I was about to say.
I remembered reading something else fairly recently about the conservative mind. Googling around, I found John Jost, a psychologist focused on something called system justification theory.
System justification theory addresses the holding of attitudes that are often contrary to one's own self-interest and therefore contrary to what one would expect on the basis of theories of self-enhancement or rational self-interest. Thus, our research focuses on counter-intuitive outcomes, such as the internalization of unfavorable stereotypes about one's own group, nonconscious biases that perpetuate inequality, attitudinal ambivalence directed at fellow ingroup members who challenge the system, opposition to equality among members of disadvantaged groups, rationalization of anticipated social and political outcomes, and tendencies among members of powerless groups to subjectively enhance the legitimacy of their powerlessness and, in some cases, to show greater support for the system than do members of powerful groups.
More googling got me to a blogpost by William Todd Schultz inspired by 'the stupendously ruthless' Republican National Convention last year. Its title is Is political conservatism a mild form of insanity?
He sums up Jost's findings on political conservatism:
Here are the facts. A meta-analysis culled from 88 samples in 12 countries, and with an N of 22,818, revealed that “several psychological variables predicted political conservatism.” Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem. The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that “the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.”
The above list of variables is more than a little unsavory. We are talking about someone full of fear, with a poor sense of self, and a lack of mental dexterity. I always tell my students that tolerance of ambiguity is one especially excellent mark of psychological maturity. It isn’t a black and white world. According to the research, conservatives possess precisely the opposite: an intolerance of ambiguity and an inability to deal with complexity. Maybe that’s one reason why Obama seems so distasteful to them: he is a nuanced, multi-faceted thinker who can see things from several different perspectives simultaneously. And he isn’t preaching fear, either.
And being howlingly stupid and/or ignorant just throws more gas on the inferno of insanity that is the US at the moment.