The Lovers and the Fighters

The Lovers and the Fighters

by digby

Robert Parry is a journalist who' been covering politics for many years. He has been clear headed from the beginning about the psychology and institutional imbalances that have led the country ever rightward for the past 40 years.

In this recent piece he takes us on a little trip down memory lane, explaining what anyone who has closely observed the way politics works in this era has long ago concluded: when the Democrats lose to Republicans --- for whatever reason --- they never, ever conclude that it was because they weren't liberal enough. Indeed, they take the opposite lesson.

The reasons for this are complicated and Parry explains them well. They have to do with money and media. But in my view this phenomenon is mostly due to psychology. The two political tribes in America attract different kinds of people. Let's call them the Lovers and the Fighters. (I think you can figure out who's who.)

The majority of people in those tribes tend to react to pain differently. When the fighters feel pain they instinctively hit back. When the lovers feel pain they instinctively withdraw. Both are very human reactions and I'm not placing a value judgment on it. There are times when each of those reactions lead to greater survival. But Parry's point is that for the last 40 years, the minority fighters in the Lovers tribe have thought that if they inflicted pain by withholding their vote that the leaders would understand that they cannot take them for granted. But that's just not the psychology of the Lovers. They feel that they are being hit from all sides and withdraw into what they feel is safer territory.

The opposite is true on the other side. The minority lovers among the Fighter tribe try to smooth things out and be accommodating and they are backed into the corner by the leaders in the Fighter tribe. (At this point they are being completely driven out of the party.)

None of this means the Fighters are always going to be the winners. They often suffer from arrogance and hubris and become so unpleasant that the majority rejects them. (Of course they, being fighters, don't go home and lick their wounds they come right back at the winners and start scrapping again --- something which the Lovers never seem to be prepared for.) The Lovers on the other hand, when they are led by smart people, understand that human beings actually prefer seduction to coercion and figure outways to make themselves loved (freedom plus groceries) and the other side feared ("I welcome their hatred".) Sadly, we haven't seen much of that in last few decades. (My suspicion is that money has compromised them so much that they no longer have any confidence.

Parry clearly lays out the case in his piece that this technique of "teaching the Democrats a lesson" has resulted in failure over and over again. They learn the opposite lesson we are seeking to teach them every time. And I guarantee you that once again, the lesson they will learn from this upcoming election will not be that they weren't liberal enough.

So, we activist types (who tend to be the fighters in the Lover tribe) can keep banging our heads against the wall and hoping that this tactic will work some day or we can figure out a new strategy.