Mommy Party Vs. Daddy Party

I’ve often classified Democrats as “the Mommy Party” — the “nurturing parent” emphasizing stereotypical mother qualities like compassion, empathy, fairness, interdependence, and communitarianism. The Republicans as I see it are “the Daddy Party” — the “critical parent” emphasizing father qualities like “tough love,” self-reliance, self-discipline, pushing oneself beyond limits, and independence. Both roles are needed in a family, in a society and in the political realm, of course. I’m by no means the first to think of this. Many others have also discussed “the Mommy party” vs. “the Daddy party” as a way of understanding American politics.

You find women who empathized more with their fathers growing up who are staunch Republicans, in part because their fathers were, and men who empathized more with their mothers growing up who are staunch Democrats, because their mothers were.

Among my Facebook friends are people on the left and right. Judging by their Facebook feeds, they seem to live in alternative universes, blaming each other for the sad state of the world and locked into permanent battle. Each side seems to be unaware of their political shadow. When I see posts by liberals portraying conservatives as the enemy and posts by conservatives portraying liberals as the enemy, I think that their minds are paying tricks on them. They are thinking in opposites, in an either/or kind of logic, when in reality, as Jungian psychologist James Hillman points out, “this isn’t how the world really is.”

“For example, most people think that the opposite of white is black. But there are shades of black — from blackberries, to black coal or blackbirds — that have nothing to do with white. The point is to learn how to evaluate each issue on its own merits without having to bring up the opposition’s point of view. In therapy, when you have a dream of your mother, for example, you don’t necessarily have to talk about your father as a supposed opposite…

“There are other ways of putting things together so they’re not necessarily opposed; there is the idea of collaboration, or the phrase “coterminous,” meaning where one appears, the other has to appear. Chinese culture has the Yin Yang symbol, with its interwoven extremes. It seems to me that we lack this kind of complex imagery in the media. Television foments this by bringing two people together from opposing positions — as if every situation has just two sides…

“…If a political party is seen only this way or that way, then we prevent what else might possibly be going on in their psyches, and we’re not bringing any insight to the process.

“For example, if I have a wife and I only see how mean-spirited and quick-tempered she is, and I see her that way all the time, then she becomes fixed into that character definition, and nothing else.”

He goes on to talk about how Democrats and Republicans, whether they like it or not, are in a marriage, or intimate relationship with each other. But in society today, they too often act like complete strangers who never truly listen to each other. The talking heads on cable news — particularly Fox News and MSNBC — are like parents constantly in a shouting match. It is, of course, much easier to label and demonize the opposition — those “cruel, heartless Republicans” or those “power-mad, fraudulent Democrats,” than to truly listen, engage in dialogue and try to understand, putting yourself in the shoes of the opposition.

Are we as Americans loosing our ability to truly listen to and understand each other politically? We should beware the shadow in politics as well as in personal relationships, as Carl Jung advised.

“Unfortunately,” wrote Jung in Psychology & Religion, “there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, & the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker & denser it is. If . . . it is repressed & isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.” According to Jungian psychology, those who don’t acknowledge their shadows project them onto others.

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