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Monday, July 25, 2016


Channeling the anger

by Tom Sullivan

Photo: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A friend directed me to a Sunday post at DKos. It's about the emotional dynamics of our politics. It's about dealing with the raw feelings at work right now in the electorate. Because if there's one thing you should never do, it is try to talk people out of what they feel. Reason doesn't work well on that.

David Akadjian writes:

In sales, when someone has an objection, the first thing you need to do is acknowledge the objection. Honestly.

If you don’t hear the objection and honestly acknowledge it, you might as well stop. Not dismissively acknowledge it with a cliché like, “I hear what you’re saying” or “That’s a great point.” But honestly acknowledge the objection.

In politics, this involves emotion. You have to show some genuine emotion.

People say that Trump is honest not because he’s honest. It’s because he shows emotion and he’s acknowledging the anger people feel and that this rage is genuine. He’s not making fun of them. He’s not telling them they’re wrong. He’s not reading some scripted speech.

Does he lie? Constantly. It doesn’t matter to many people though, because he’s saying that they’re right to be angry. Similarly, it doesn’t matter to many on the religious right that he’s not religious. It doesn’t matter to many libertarians that he’s not libertarian. He’s angry. They’re angry. By and large this is what counts. (And yes, racism probably plays a big part in this and you will never win the consciously racist. You’re also never going to win people over by calling them racist though. So I find it more productive to teach about racism in other places.)

People don’t care that Trump lies because he is acknowledging a genuine concern of theirs. Similarly, this is one of the reasons people liked Bernie Sanders: Because he speaks to a concern genuinely. If you listen to someone like Elizabeth Warren, she does the same thing.
A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters are frustrated and angry too, but at different people. A few think they are going to Philadelphia to overturn the tables of the money changers. That probably won't happen, but at least Debbie Wasserman Schultz is stepping down (and probably shouldn't show up on stage). I get how they feel: angry that the world seems out of their control. It's a helpless feeling. I loathe that feeling. (In other quarters, people self-medicate by buying more guns.) Whether Hillary Clinton acknowledges the anger honestly in Philadelphia is her choice to make. She had best make it a good one. How Sanders delegates channel their feelings during and after the convention is similarly their choice to make. They are poised to build on their successes if they choose to.

One of the times I felt most frustrated was after I almost died in a head-on collision that didn't happen.

A friend and I were in my family's VW bus sitting at night in the left-turn lane of a major intersection and waiting for the light to turn. Out of nowhere, a white panel truck raced into the intersection headed straight for us through the opposite left-turn lane. I could see the driver's face inside. But instead of hitting us head-on, the van hit the left front of a passenger car that crossed between us, left to right, traveling with the light. The two vehicles slid past us and came to rest up against a phone pole on the corner to my right. The passenger car flipped up onto its right side when it hit the curb, its roof coming to rest against the pole. The driver of the still-upright van started to climb out the driver's side window.

As we sat there with our mouths hanging open, a pink Mustang convertible (I kid you not) screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection. The Mustang driver jumped out, leveled a large revolver at the van driver and screamed for him to "Hold it!" He did. Our jaws dropped even lower.

The guy in the van was an escaped convict. The Mustang driver was a prison guard who had taken chase.

What happened next changed me. We jumped out and ran over to the wrecked car as the guard handcuffed his prisoner. A family was inside. With kids. Broken and bleeding. But we stood there, two high school kids, helpless, not knowing what we could or should to help as police and an ambulance arrived. That helplessness was one of the worst feelings of my life. I still hate that feeling.

Never again. It took time, but I eventually signed up for EMT training.

After George W. Bush invaded Iraq, I started doing this and more. I used to get angry. Now I just get busy.