"Emotion Is Part Of The Human Animal"

by digby

Perlstein did a great Washington Post chat today about his article on the crazies being a constant factor in American politics. Great stuff all around. For instance, he argued that carrying guns to a political event is a betrayal of our founding democratic principles that political disputes should be settled by non-violent means. (That sounds right to me, but I get the feeling that some of these folks think that the Second Amendment is a sacred divination that trumps everything else. In practice, it is.)

But Rick talked about some other things that were equally fascinating, particularly the issue of why the demagogic rhetoric of the right seems to work so well:

You can't "demand" that people be more logical. Emotion is part of the human animal. What I would have liked to have seen, as an advocate of healthcare reform, is for Obama and the rhetoric to COMBINE rational appeals with emotional ones--like FDR and and Truman and LBJ did so effectively in their own attempts to pass progressive legislation. They roused people in their lizard-brains, too, just for progressive ends. Read a book about the 1948 presidential election--Truman made arguments in a very blunt, emotional style...

And he mentions my biggest pet peeve -- the sell-out on populist economic issues, which should naturally belong to the left right now and is instead (dangerously) being appropriated by the right:

Somewhere along the line Democrats lost a sense of their natural power base--which is the fact that their ideas are economically beneficial to the vast majority. Acknowledging this fact became "demagoguery." Conservatives convinced them it was "class warfare." They became afraid of their simplest and most powerful message. All the other timidity follows from that.

In our country, populism has almost always been caught up in race and nativism, but it didn't have to be that way this time. The democratic Party's ties with corporate America cause a great deal of this problem to be sure, but I agree with Rick that much of this is sheer Pavlovian reflex. They are afraid to say the truth. The right is unafraid to lie. And that leads to a distorted political dialog that nobody can understand. And into that void, the scare tactics have a distinct advantage.

Read the whole thing. Perlstein knows how to argue with conservatives better than anyone I know.