Are the Republicans Driven by Disgust?

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So last week, a group of thoughtful conservatives got together to discuss limited government, business deregulation, and tax rates.

Ha — just kidding.

Maybe that is what the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) used to be. But in Trump’s America, the conference “has become a political circus filled with conspiracy theories, cranks and far-right extremism.” Yes, it’s now a place where wanna-be fascists, pissed-off lunatics and scheming racists get together to shriek about liberals, rant about hamburgers, and slander a dead man who was their hero just 10 years ago.

Good times.

In any case, unless you are inexplicably a Trump fan, you likely viewed the CPAC gathering with a mixture of anger, disbelief, and/or befuddlement.

But you probably weren’t disgusted — or at least not truly nauseated in a queasy, stomach-churning way.

That’s because “numerous studies have found that high levels of sensitivity to disgust  tend to go hand in hand with a ‘conservative ethos,’ which is defined by characteristics such as traditionalism, religiosity, support for authority and hierarchy, sexual conservatism, and distrust of outsiders.”

Basically, if you get grossed out easily, you are more likely to be a Republican.

Yes, this seems silly. For starters, how could scientists possibly measure someone’s level of disgust?

Well, one study placed people in an MRI machine, showed them nauseating imagery, and then analyzed their brain scans.

You’ll be interested to know that “just by looking at the subjects’ neural responses,” the scientists “could predict with more than 95 percent accuracy whether they were liberal or conservative.”

Other studies have found that this “disgust sensitivity is related to conservatism across a wide variety of cultures, geographic regions and political systems.”

Researchers are saying, therefore, that whether you are American or Chinese, rich or poor, love Maroon 5 or hate Maroon 5, it doesn’t influence your political beliefs nearly as much as whether or not you gag when you smell dog shit.

OK, that’s all pretty compelling. But even if someone is more likely to get wobbly-kneed at the sight of vomit, why would this make them clamor for lower taxes on the rich or an end to gay marriage?

Well, according to the researchers, “disgust sensitivity may also help shape beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil.”

Now, keep in mind that other studies have found that conservatives tend to be more fearful than liberals.

Put it all together and you can see how a conservative could view, for example, a transgender person as not just a rarity, but a terrifying harbinger of change, an “impure” person who provokes disgust.

But for the most striking example of how fear and disgust comingle to conjure political belief systems, look no further than our favorite hot-button topic: immigration.

It’s undeniable that the president’s most fervent supporters are petrified at the idea of more brown-skinned people moving in next door to them. The hatred — and the fear — of Latinos is a major characteristic of the Trumpist.

Now add disgust to the mix. Or better yet, let a scientist do it for you.

Researchers found that opposition to immigration “increased in direct proportion to a participant’s sensitivity to disgust — an association that held up even after taking into account education level, socioeconomic status, religious background, and numerous other factors.”

The reasons for this have to do with “negative stereotypes about foreigners common throughout history — the notion that they’re dirty, eat bizarre foods, and have looser sexual mores.”

The myth that Hispanics are crossing the border and bringing disease is perpetrated on multiple conservative outlets. This idea provokes a strong sensation of disgust. In fact, many “scientists think germ fears piggyback” upon a fear of immigrants, causing a powerful loop of repulsion, especially among those who are most terrified of contamination.

By the way, Trump is a well-known germaphobe.

It’s all starting to make sense now, isn’t it?

 

Featured image: Andreas D./Flickr

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