Emotionalism in Politics?

30 10 2008

Usually I get annoyed when I listen to Republican politicians talk about economics. Mostly because I don’t agree with the general Republican economic ideology of “freer market the better” (This is partly due to the fact that I’m not an economics expert and to me an income tax cut for less than 250,000 just makes more sense, but if you care to enlighten me, I’m always willing to learn). For the record though, just because I am against Republican economics I do not consider myself a Democrat. I’m registered as non-partisan and do not align myself automatically with the democratic party. But coming back to the subject at hand, I was listening to NPR’s Radiotimes with Marty Moss-Coane and she was hosting two political consultant/analysts to discuss Obama’s 30-min Infomercial: Dan Payne, a Boston area media consultant who has worked for Democratic candidates and Todd Domke, a Boston area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.

Surprisingly I wasn’t getting annoyed at Todd the Republican but more at Dan the Democrat. I was annoyed at Dan the Democrat because the comments he made were rather reactionary and seemingly filled with emotion. Todd the Republican commented in the discussion with a very wide-viewed encompassing manner. He would give credit to Obama in his political strategy where he thought commendation was required and yet he would try to be critical when necessary. Dan the Democrat just seemed to want to endorse Obama with his comments and defend any accusations that would arise against the Democratic candidate. Now I know that I cannot stereotype neither Democrats nor Republicans as more or less reactionary, that has to be a case-by-case analysis. But I wonder then, if it is valid to question the place of emotionalism in politics, and in turn, if it does have a place, is my annoyance at the ’emotional’ reactionary comments by Dan the Democrat invalid? At least in the arena I am familiar with, i.e religion and theology, emotionalism has been wrongly downplayed probably since the Enlightenment. But more and more scholars and pastors are indicating that, in the right manner, emotion has a crucial, even necessary, place in religion. Then what of politics and emotion. Can we be stirred by emotion in deciding our candidate or political alignment? Or is it more human to truncate emotion from our political life?

Todd the Republican commented interestingly that when he was watching the Obama 30-min Infomercial, though he doesn’t agree with the Democratic candidate, he found himself being stirred and motivated from the effect of the music. He didn’t say the use of music was manipulative but he didn’t affirm that its affect was an essential part in political decision. We all are emotionally affected by issues that are important to us, and to react emotionally doesn’t seem illegitimate. So maybe the question of whether emotionalism is valid in politics is not as important. Maybe the better question is does our emotionalism impede our ability to see the other side? To honestly consider the opposing view, learn and critic in a constructive manner? Yeah, maybe we’re too quick to state our opinions, maybe we should learn how to listen more. As Augustine once wisely said, “Hear the other side.”

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