As important as Gilbert Cuthbertson's belief in "Myth, Value, and Power" were to my time at Rice, I suspect Dr. John Alford's latest research may be to that of my son.
Dr. Alford, working with other researchers, had 46 people who claimed staunch political leanings subjected to scary stimuli -- pictures, sounds, etc.
Now by conservative and liberal we're not talking about the ephemeral definitions these words have in current American discourse? What would Goldwater say about bailing out the big banks? (I think Ron Paul knows.)
What we're talking about is an attitude, a social conservatism that aims first at protecting existing institutions and structures, and only later (if at all) about anything else. And this is the thread which ties the Bush family's politics, and that of the last 40 years together. It's an absolute determination to protect entrenched interests, based mainly on tactics of fear.
This is is what ties together Willie Horton and Osama bin Laden. This is what Reagan's bear was all about. This is what the Republicans' primogeniture is all about -- the inheritance of wealth and power generation after incompetent generation. This is especially what is means when conservatives rail against "San Francisco Democrats," the idea that change might upset the established order and, no matter how venal the established order or established institutions might be, we can't permit it.
This not only ties their positions together, but explains their tactics as well. It also explains the failure of Democrats to do anything constructive about it. Because liberals don't react to the same stimuli in the way Republicans do, Democrats work to appeal to logic, or they tell stories. When they should be trying to use the other side as objects of fear.
But Democrats don't like doing that, again because they don't share the fear. The fear, to them, seems silly. They laugh at what conservatives shake in their boots over. Which is why a generation of comics, from George Carlin to Jon Stewart, have come from the left, and focused on the absurdity of our fears. Is it possible they have been part of the problem?
With this key in your hand you can decode Republican advertising and create antidotes. Make people afraid of Palin and McCain. It isn't that hard right now. Then make people afraid of conservative conspiracy nuts, and religious nuts, who want to invade your bedrooms and make your kids afraid. Raise the stakes, pile on the fear, while continuing to appeal in an intellectual way to your own people.
It's the difference between how Democrats should be fighting in the air as against how they should be fighting on the ground. On the ground you're looking for allies, so you appeal to the head and the heart. On the air you're looking to cause fear and be its cure, so you appeal to the gonads.
More important is that Karl Rove and all his tactics have been, at once, explained and unmasked. The curtain has been ripped out from behind the Wizard of Oz, showing him to be nothing but a garden variety scam artist trading on fear for power. This, of course, gives the old Frank Baum fairy tales a powerful moral, and political, lesson.
It's very seldom that a little piece of political research has such far-reaching implications for our culture and our future. Rice Science Friday has come up with something marvelous.