Emotions That are Related to Politics and Emotions That are Political In Nature
It is emotion that is political in nature, and it is emotion that is related to politics.
Whether it is the anger we feel watching a talking head who is angry, or the love we feel towards a political party, or the sadness we feel about a political idea. When we discuss politics and emotion together, we can call the amalgam “political emotion”.
When we think of justice, honor, liberty, equality, and political virtues, and we feel an emotional attachment, that is political emotion.
When we see the logo of a political party and react emotionally, that is political emotion.
When we judge a policy based on brand name, like if we like or dislike “Obama” care based on the name, that is political emotion.
If we don’t vote for a liberal because we don’t like Communism and we “feel” all liberals are Communists. We are reacting not based on reason, but on political emotion. When we do this same thing about conservatives and Fascists, again, it is political emotion. And let us note, the Communists and Fascists used political emotion.
Political emotion can make one weep truly honorable tears over our shared civil religion, or it can drive us to action. It isn’t really bad or good, but it certainly can cloud judgement.
Consider, propaganda’s purpose is generally to convey emotion, not facts. When we get in a mode where we react only to emotion we risk being misled.
Emotions are one resource we have as humans, but we need to check that emotion against other tools like logic, ethics, and empirical evidence.
We are in a very weak state when we just seek to emulate fear and anchor it to our being. Our brain is like plastic, it gets molded as we learn. When we learn emotion, we mirror that emotion. This can be a slippery slope.
Sure, it is amazing when a warrior hops from trench-to-trench to fight for liberal values with a slim chance of ever getting home, but when we become so angry we support the purging of a whole race of people, well… what is it that you think that solider was fighting for in the first place? Emotion drives politics, yet we can’t hold an emotion in our hands, they are these invisible little things that are easy to exploit and hard to control. Reason is our only useful defense.
Great democratic leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr., understood the importance of cultivating emotions… but so did Mussolini, Lenin, and Hitler…. and so did the craftsmen of the sixth party strategy.
Pathos and Rhetoric: Another way to describe the use of political emotion as a tool for swaying politics is rhetoric. A tool of rhetoric is to use pathos. Pathos is the art of appealing to emotion. Learn more about the aspects of human understanding.
TIP: There are two types of emotion, positive and negative. Positive emotion, like we feel when hearing the National Anthem, is mostly good (although it too can blind us). Negative emotion, like we feel when we listen to Alex Jones, is more a thing of physiological warfare (that isn’t a comment on Alex Jones, it is a comment on “anger politics” using the best example I could think of, could have also used Mort Downey Jr., Rush, or Ed Schultz).
Anger politics (a negative emotion): This is a term that I give to political messages, of the left and right, that use anger to sway people. Anger politics is often paired with wedge issues and party bias to create factions who feely very strongly about a very specific issue. Having hardline and angry stances over a specific single-voter-issue is a recipe for disharmony. Yet, it is our anger that drives us to do things like declare “no taxation without representation”.
Empathy politics (a positive emotion): Almost as bad as anger politics is empathy politics, when our empathy is turned against us over wedge issues it can have nearly the same effect as anger politics. Here I don’t mean actual empathy, where two sides try to understand each other, I mean empathy with the issue or people in the issue paired with anger. The best example is abortion, one side feels empathy with the unborn, the other feels equal empathy for the mother. Neither side seeks actual empathy in the middle, and this creates a divisive wedge issue over the single-voter-issue “abortion”. Yet, it is our empathy that allows us to understand the other side and work together.
Wedge issues: Wedge issues are what stop ideological factions filled with emotion from working together, this can benefit the less emotional and business minded who profit off the division.
TIP: To the extent that we believe the left and right are naturally occurring, we can then theorize that different types of people are primed to responding to different types of emotions. Where a bleeding heart liberal might react based on empathy and anger, the equal and opposite type of conservative might react based on anger or fear. We all have the same emotions as people, but different types respond to different emotions. In the Civil War one side saw it as a moral issue, another economic, another about defending their liberty and way of life. Emotions were high and there was more anger than understanding, like in the World Wars, this left-right split, fueled by emotion and propaganda, and not offset by healthy debate and understanding led to vast bloodshed. Yet, we all weep the same tears when we talk about great figures like Washington. Emotions are powerful, for better or worse, they can be used to exploit people and divide them over wedge issues, or they can be used to unite a country and boost morale. We should always seek to use emotions for the purposes of good, and we should “check” ourselves if we feel like we are being divided by emotional wedge issues (as a purposeful strategy or as a natural advent). From here I’d ask you to take deep and unemotional look at things like Political Correctness (a good example of emotions getting in the way of reason for both the left and right), Edward Bernays (father of PR), the Sixth Party Strategy (that which created Fox News and Liberal Professors), the reasons for the Civil War (it wasn’t “just” about slavery), and “civil religion” (the emblems of the state that fill us with positive emotion and bind us together as a nation).
- Emotional Attachment to Political Parties Seems to Make People More Knee-Jerk in Their Beliefs
- Physiological Responses and Partisan Bias: Beyond Self-Reported Measures of Party Identification
- Political Emotions Why Love Matters for Justice
- “Rage against the Machine: Anger as a Political Emotion”–New York Institute of Philosophy Lecture, Feb. 10