From a reader:
Does the three axis model help understand coalitions?…Are coalitions a kind of exchange where people accept each other’s position on the model?
My first thought is that coalitions are more likely to form on particular issues, with each group in the coalition using its preferred heuristic. This makes such coalitions fragile. For example, the biggest enthusiasts for the drug war probably were conservatives, who see drug abuse as barbaric. Progressives might side with conservatives to the extent that they views “pushers” as oppressors. However, as they grow to see imprisoned drug sellers more as oppressed than as oppressors, their support for the drug war weakens.
Does a coalition form because one group accepts another group’s model? I think this is less likely, and it is unlikely to last long. For example, perhaps immediately after 9/11, progressives accepted the civilization vs. barbarism narrative about terrorist groups. However, that has changed. Now, when a conservative uses the language of civilization vs. barbarism, he is likely to be labeled by progressives as an Islamophobe. Look at what happened to the film maker after the Benghazi incident.
I noticed that in the popular novel Kite Runner, the Taliban were portrayed as grown-up schoolyard bullies, which made it possible for progressives to process them by using the oppressed-oppressor narrative. Perhaps progressives favored the war in Afghanistan because they were persuaded to think of the Taliban as oppressors. President Bush attempted to make that case about Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but at that point progressives were not buying such a narrative. For that war, his coalition was smaller and quite fragile.
[I note in passing that Walter Russell Mead wrote last week,
Civilization is a hard won victory, and it must be constantly reclaimed in the face of barbarism.
He was talking about Mali.]
Concerning coalitions, I can imagine trying to include language in a bill that is intended to appeal to more than one dominant heuristic. For example, an immigration-reform measure could include language designed to emphasize border security and English as a national language in order to mollify conservatives that civilization is still valued.
Libertarians who try to get progressives on board with school choice are likely to emphasize it benefits for inner-city children, rather than talk up its benefits more broadly. I think that these attempts to frame issues in another group’s heuristic are more constructive than many other approaches for discussing politics. But these attempts will tend to fail nonetheless. As far as progressives are concerned, public education and teachers’ unions are automatically on the side of the oppressed, and that makes school choice a hard sell.