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View Diary: Reason, Emotion and Politics: An Interview with Drew Westen (88 comments)

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  •  Who are we? Where are we going? (0+ / 0-)

    That Joe Straczynski's a genius.  He discussed all this over 10 years ago.

    Rationality and emotion are not mutually exclusive, in fact they are complementary.

    Interesting theory.  I disagree.  I think they are diametrically opposed.  Sometimes they agree on ends, but that's just a coincidence.  They are totally independent of one another.

    And that's the problem.  I'm sure it's completely rational as far as George W. Bush is concerned to give a huge tax cut to the wealthy and to fight insurgents in Iraq.  Do madmen know they are insane?  Do those who are evil know they are evil?  No.  They think themselves sane and rational and good, and they construct rational frameworks to support their emotional positions.  The difference is in what they base those frameworks on.  If you base your rational framework on rational positions, like "tax cuts combined with record spending is fiscally irresponsible," your framework is on solid ground; there is provable science and testable evidence supporting you.  But if you base your rational framework on emotional precepts, such as "we must win in Iraq because it will show how strong we are," you are on very shaky ground indeed.

    I don't disagree that a combination of rational and emotional appeal is the best possible approach.  But what I read Westen saying in his interview is that Dems need to lean far more in favor of emotional appeal rather than rational:

    It’s just that one side is beautifully using phrases – in this case, I believe unethically, like "Support Our Troops"—that is deliberately designed to confuse support for the people in the military with support the Iraq war. But if one side knows how to do that, and the other side doesn’t know how to do that, it doesn’t matter what your arguments are.

    My feeling is that if we do that, almost certainly we will find ourselves as far off in the weeds of irrationality as the Repubs find themselves today.

    What do we want, as Dems?  Do we simply want to win elections?  That's easy enough, just get as good at telling people what they want to hear as the Repubs, says Dr. Westen.  But then, who are we?  What do we stand for?  Do we stand for rational analysis and resolutions to problems, or do we stand for emotional flag-waving and appeals to patriotism?  Will we simply say and do anything to get elected?  Or is there a line we will draw, and say, beyond this point, we are going to appeal to your reason, and if you can't follow along that's your problem because the national interest demands this level of thinking?

    •  A challenge for leadership (0+ / 0-)

      ... is always going to be how to win the support of people who are not as well informed and often not as smart (whatever that means) as the leaders.

      There needs to be a reduced, highly simplified version of whatever the message is, and it needs to be something that people can connect to emotionally. That way people who don't have much information, don't pay much attention, and don't have the greatest critical thinking skills can still form a strongly positive impression of who we are and what we want to do.

      This is a technique, if you will. As such, it can be cynically exploited, but that does not mean that all uses are cynical and exploitive. Like other tools, it has no intrinsic moral character, and can be used to good ends or bad, with greater or lesser skill, etc.

      Drew Westen and George Lakoff argue that if we allow the GOP the sole use of this tool, we are signing up for more of what we've seen for the last 30 years.

      A simplified, emotionally powerful message could otherwise be called mythic, archetypal, or poetic. These are deeply true and powerful-- but not overtly rational-- cultural and cognitive forms.

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