April 30, 2012 | No Comments
In amongst all my volunteering and consulting and fathering and what have you, I managed to put together some writing on politics!
The essay, which is a bit of a political opus for me, reflects on my experiences volunteering for the respective NDP leadership campaigns of John Horgan and Nathan Cullen. It also looks at the role that hope stands to play in our political process based on those experiences.
Here’s a taste:
I volunteered and became heavily involved in the campaigns I did because the candidates moved me on a deep emotional level. Listening to John Horgan and Nathan Cullen speak, reading something they had written, or otherwise interacting with them left me with a feeling that these were the right people to support.
I’m not unique in that regard. The role that emotion plays in politics and political decisions has been covered in detail by Dr. Drew Westen in his influential book, The Political Brain. A description of the book reveals Westen’s thesis:
In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. Elections are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role. Westen shows, through a whistle-stop journey through the evolution of the passionate brain and a bravura tour through fifty years of American presidential and national elections, why campaigns succeed and fail. The evidence is overwhelming that three things determine how people vote, in this order: their feelings toward the parties and their principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven’t decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates’ policy positions.
There is, perhaps, the inclination to look at this reality with a cynical eye. It could be easy to conclude that politics as a practice of the heart means we are forever destined to fuck it up, given how unreliable our emotions can be.
But while my experience on the campaign trail largely bears out Westen’s thesis, it also leads me to disagree with the above cynicism. Indeed, I found just the opposite to be true.
Messages of hope and optimism have the potential to substantially transform our politics and how we see each others’ political actions in the ways we so badly need.
If you’re so inclined, go take a look at the whole thing (warning: it’s long).