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Defining the Divide

Last column I asserted there was a political divide in Citrus County, but that it wasn’t between traditional labels. It is not Democrat vs. Republican, liberal vs. conservative or left vs. right. Instead it is between culturists and idealists.

Divisions such as these require disagreement about a core belief. The core belief between the traditional labels is the role of centralized government. These newly proposed labels have a different disagreement.

Instead of the role of government, these sides disagree on the responsibility within an organization. Cultrists believe that the people within an organization are what make it succeed and thus the emphasis should be placed on the individuals in leadership. Idealists believe that the organization’s mission is what makes it succeed and that leadership within the organization should work to perpetuate that message over their own ideals.

I used moral foundation theory to further define the two sides. Moral foundation theory proposes six ways people perceive the world: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. It goes on to state through research that the more acutely someone relates to a certain foundation, the harder it will be for them to agree with someone viewing the same problem through a different foundation.

A good example of this was when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees made comments in the off-season regarding what the United States flag means to him and why he didn’t plan to kneel. Brees was making his argument using the sanctity foundation talking about the sacrifice the flag represents. His critics were swift and merciless. Grounded in the care foundation as the ideological left predominantly is, the critics called for Brees’ apology and couldn’t understand the source of his seemingly heartless comments.

I proposed Thursday that culturists are strong in loyalty and care foundations while idealists rely more on sanctity and liberty. The arguments regarding the Board of County Commission’s 4-1 vote on how to use $800,000 of money originally designated as CARES Act become much clearer when these foundations and sides are defined.

Those voting in the majority on the BOCC and those in the crowd who advocated for the direction they chose all made essentially the same argument. “Look at the group sitting in the back of this room,” several elected officials and community members said. “We can trust them to use the funds in the county’s best interest.” I am fortunate enough to know the people to whom they were referring and I agree wholeheartedly that they have the county’s best interest in mind.

The individuals’ ability or willingness to help the community, however earnest and genuine it may be, matters little if the organizations they work for have limited scope to help people in the manner originally intended for the funds. This is where the culturists, who trust the people within nonprofits and colleges that will receive money, and idealists, who disagree that nonprofits or educational institutions should receive county general fund money, start to diverge. To say this is only a disagreement over the role of government misses the human side of it.

Culturists want to help people and they feel the money has sat long enough in bureaucratic limbo. Idealists want to help people too, but believe the process supersedes speed in fund delivery. This is sanctity, a respect for the institution, over care foundations.

This faith in the process over people is why I refer to idealists as structural while the emphasis on relationships is why I’ll refer to culturists as relational. I am firmly a structural idealist but I don’t think I am always correct nor do I feel animosity towards relational culturists. I do believe the ideological structuralists are in the minority of our local governing bodies although I think our institutions work best with diverse approaches so I would never want to see culturists eliminated from the conversation. I also believe, however, that they are currently dominating that conversation.

The Chronicle, which I think does a fantastic job as a local paper overall, is firmly a relational publication putting its weight behind arguing for culturist ideas. It rarely criticizes organizations if the individuals who lead those organizations share their beliefs, even if the organization is acting in a way that deserves criticism.

The Concurrent’s goal is not to fill this critical void. It is to propose possible explanations for why we disagree on certain issues and offer the argument from the side currently least represented in local elected government and media.


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