Here's some lazy blogging. I just wrote an email to my niece and realized it would probably make a decent blog entry. Maybe I'll come back later and edit it, but right now I'll just copy-and-paste to save time.
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Thanks! I'm glad you liked my guest editorial. I also blog about political conversation. If I can discipline myself enough to be a working freelance writer, I’d love to write magazine articles about it. All the “political communication” literature I can find focuses on one-way outgoing “messaging,” and all the interpersonal communications literature focuses either on family or business relationships. Last week, I was talking with one of the two political scientists I have found so far who come closest to studying methods of interpersonal political communication, and she verified for me that I haven’t found any how-to literature because none exists. (In her research, she studies the extent to which people influence the political beliefs of others in small social groups, but has stayed away from any how-to angle.) So, I need to get off my retired butt and become a serious freelance writer.
Anyway, back to your questions. The 2x2 matrix I sketched out on the paper plate came not from a book, but from a website. Take the test; I think the questions are good ones. (My dot landed pretty much on top of Gandhi’s.) There’s a different website—which may have more research attached to it; I can’t quite remember—that describes pretty much the same two axes, but I can’t find that bookmark or URL right now. I’ll send it along if I can find it later. (I do remember that those authors were so convinced that no one is extreme on more than one axis that their matrix chopped off all four corners and became diamond-shaped.)
Since I took that Political Compass test and read through their explanation, I’ve been noticing that this matrix fits/explains almost everything else that touches on political leanings sooooo much better than the one-dimensional liberal/conservative continuum.
The book I probably mentioned was EJ Dionne’s Our Divided Political Heart. The ‘divided heart’ in his title is the horizontal axis of the Political Compass: our genuine attraction to both the communitarian and the individualistic ends of that continuum. The first part of his book reviews American political history to show how strongly and frequently the pendulum has swung back and forth. For example, right now, we associate Republicans with individualism and Democrats with communitarianism, but look at the names of those two parties! They got those names for good reasons, back when American conservatives were highly focused on building strong political structures and liberals were the ones who were all about the noble, free individual.
Another recent, fascinating book (which, like Dionne’s book, also contains no explicit reference to anything resembling the Political Compass) is Jonathon Haidt’s Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt focuses more on the vertical axis—the authoritarian/libertarian axis—how and why conservatives value loyalty, authority, and sanctity more, while liberals are all about fairness and individual well-being. Haidt’s book bothered me a bit in that he clung so tightly to the liberal/conservative dichotomy that his analysis suffered, but the first part of his book was a very good high-level summary of some of the neuroscience explaining our political values.
Setting those two books side by side, the take-away for political conversation is that, if you want to connect with someone else about political beliefs, you need to be sensitive to where the person sits on both axes, but simply take the vertical axis into account while expecting any significant flexibility only along the horizontal axis.
Probably more of an answer than you were hoping for. It was lovely talking to you last weekend. I always get so frustrated with the limited opportunity for meaty conversation at big family gatherings like that, and talking to you was a real bright spot for me! Bon voyage, and start getting those Kremlin photos on Facebook right away!