Posted by: mutantpoodle | June 27, 2007

Democrats: Go for the Gut, please

brain_1Stephen Colbert is right. And not in the whacked-out far-right way his talk show character is. He is correct. It’s all about the gut:

Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say I did look it up, and that’s not true. That’s cause you looked it up in a book.

Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.

Why, so many of us wonder, do Republicans who don’t have the brains to clap erasers at the end of 8th-grade math classes get elected to, well, anything? Why do intelligent, informed, decent Democrats lose to people who wouldn’t know a fact if it was trying get a morning after pill at a Catholic Hospital?

The answer, it appears, is in the human brain, which responds more strongly to emotions than rationality. That’s why girls date the bad boy and while a lot of people may buy Priuses, they’re not anywhere near as jazzed about it as people who buy Porsches.

And now an Emory University psychology professor named Drew Weston has penned a book about how this works in politics. The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation looks at neurological responses to messages and concludes that the Democrats come up short not because of what they say, but how they say it. And this piece in Newsweek gives us a little taste.

Now, all this isn’t news to many of us who clench our teeth in anger while Democrats prattle on about policy as Republicans yell “Boo” and go home. But what’s fun is some of the responses Weston designs to be effective counters to republican attacks. In 2000, George Bush attacked Al Gore during the October 3, 200 Presidential Debate: “You know, going to a Buddhist temple and then claiming it wasn’t a fund-raiser isn’t my view of responsibility.”

What if Gore had smacked him down like so:

“You have attacked my honor and integrity. I think it’s time to teach you a few old-fashioned lessons about character. When I enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War, you were talkin’ real tough about Vietnam. But when you got the call, you called your daddy and begged him to pull some strings so you wouldn’t have to go to war. So instead of defending your country with honor, you put some poor Texas millworker’s kid on the front line in your place to get shot at. Where I come from, we call that a coward.

“When I was working hard, raising my family, you were busy drinking yourself and your family into the ground. Why don’t you tell us how many times you got behind the wheel of a car with a few drinks under your belt? Where I come from, we call that a drunk.

“When I was serving in the U.S. Senate, your own father’s government had to investigate you on the charge that you’d swindled a bunch of old people out of their life savings by using insider knowledge to sell off stocks you knew were about to drop. Where I come from, we call that crooked. So governor, don’t you ever lecture me about character. And don’t you ever talk to me that way again in front of my family or my fellow citizens.”

Well, what besides Jim Lehrer keeling over in a dead faint.

  • Perhaps the Supreme Court never would have been able to install W in the Oval Office.
  • Perhaps we wouldn’t have soldiers dying in Iraq at a rate of nearly 100 a month.
  • Perhaps we’d have an Attorney General who could tell his ass from the bill of rights and who could remember, oh, anything at all.
  • Perhaps we’d still only have three branches of government.
  • Perhaps al qaeda would be a marginalized group – a failure at its goal to portray the United States and the West as enemies of Islam.
  • I’m fucking sick of it. It’s not enough to just stand up – it’s time to righteously smack some people down.

    Elizabeth Edwards got off to a good start. And apparently, some Democrats are talking to Professor Weston.

    Let’s hope they listen, too.

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