Yesterday, for once, I found myself disagreeing with Thomas. His strategic advice to the protesters suggested they can only succeed by appealing to voters’ inherent, amoral self-interest. This argument seems incorrect because it rests on one flawed assumption.
Let’s begin at the very beginning. Scientists now think fairness makes humans tick. Our cooperative nature evolved millions of years ago, when a meke species had to survive among brutes. To improvise survival strategies, we developed the unique capacity of speech to communicate threats and ideas to one another. As a result, we could adapt to chaotic environments that vexed dimmer primates. And to this day, humans respond to danger by coming together, not scrambling apart.
That’s what’s happened on Halifax Mall. Over 1,000 people sacrificed their own freedom to protect the group from things that may not threaten them personally. Given the scientific basis of sacrifice, it’s illogical to say that the other voters are driven by the opposite impulse. Moreover, we see this outlook in voters’ general disposition toward politics. Americans revere soldiers and revile lobbyists, because nothing is edifying about a special interest demands a tax cut.
Even the policies Thomas lists indicate an altruistic temperament. Voting-age people don’t attend pre-school, and their self-interest isn’t harmed even if other people’s children get kicked out. Similarly, most middle-class swing voters aren’t eligible for Medicaid. It’s the prospect of a disabled man, or an elderly woman, or a poor child being denied health care that tears at their hearts.
Likewise, the romance of these protests is inseparable from the spirit that animates them. Maybe swing voters don’t buy the aesthetics, but their genes tell them individual success requires mutual sacrifice. This instinct guided us in prehistoric times, and the same feelings govern us today. So there’s no reason the Moral Mondays movement shouldn’t tout its, well, morality.