Democrats seek new language

An exceedingly odd tidbit from The Washington Post’s political columnist Perry Bacon:

Democrats should not talk about “the environment,” “the unemployed” or “the uninsured.” Instead, they should replace those phrases with ones that have more appeal to voters, such as “the air we breathe and the water we drink,” “people who’ve lost their jobs” and “people who used to have insurance.”

That’s the advice of one of the party’s newest and more unusual gurus, Drew Westen. Westen is a psychologist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who, unlike most political advisers, has never worked full time on Capitol Hill or for a political campaign.

But party leaders in the House and the Senate brought in Westen recently to discuss his expertise: “The Political Brain,” as he called it in his 2007 book. Westen argues that Democrats constantly try to sell policies to voters through reason and facts, ignoring research showing that people respond more to emotional appeals.

via Language lessons for Democrats, from the political brain of Drew Westen.

Democrats using reason and facts?  When was the last time that happen?  All I recall in their appeals is moralistic exhortation and guilt-tripping.  That was all we heard in the health care debate, but hardly any reasonable explanation of how the new system could possibly work and nary a fact about how we can pay for it.  The same goes for all of the bailouts, the environmental policies, and immigration policies they keep recommending.  Now I happen to think that moral exhortation is a legitimate appeal, one not necessarily counter to reason and facts.  But if Democrats think that they are the ones who trade in rationality and facts, they are delusional!  And if they think they can make their policies more palatable by manipulating the language, they are either cynical or naive.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    “Drill, baby, drill!” was non-emotional rationalism? Not that I disagree with you about the Democrats. But the Republican Party hasn’t exactly been a school for philosopher kings. :-O

  • Tom Hering

    “Drill, baby, drill!” was non-emotional rationalism? Not that I disagree with you about the Democrats. But the Republican Party hasn’t exactly been a school for philosopher kings. :-O

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Facts. Like, “I did not have sex with that woman”, or “I invented the internet”, or “We will save 900,000 jobs”, or…

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Facts. Like, “I did not have sex with that woman”, or “I invented the internet”, or “We will save 900,000 jobs”, or…

  • Andy

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/the-proud-ignorance-of-rand-paul/56995/

    What’s passing for rationality and facts in the GOP right now.

  • Andy

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/the-proud-ignorance-of-rand-paul/56995/

    What’s passing for rationality and facts in the GOP right now.

  • DonS

    I’d say Tom and Andy are a little touchy on this subject. Where in his post did Dr. Veith claim that Republicans have been the masters of reason and facts, particularly in political campaigns, which is the topic of the post? Yet you both responded, not by pointing out where he was wrong about Democrats, but by implying that it’s OK for Democrats not to deal with reason and facts because Republicans don’t either.

    Both parties emphasize emotional appeals during political campaigns. That’s a given, and it’s media-driven. The media doesn’t want to delve into issues, and they want to present political campaigns in soundbites and as horse races only. They love “gotcha” politics, particularly when scandals pop up along the way. It is our job as the citizens who are being railroaded to ruin through this political approach to call a halt to it. In this Internet age, seek out the details. Go to political “town meetings” and demand real answers to politicians. For Democrats, make them explain how ever increasing entitlements works budgetarily, in the long term. How do we avoid default while increasing entitlements and feeding public unions ever increasing benefits and pensions? Where is the real evidence for AGW, sufficient to justify serious damage to our economy to address it with measures that probably won’t work anyway? For Republicans, how do we roll these entitlements back and manage the budget without increasing deficits? How do we manage our resources so that we ensure a dependable and cheap energy supply without causing serious damage to the environment?

    In the meantime, Dr. Veith is right to call out a poser such as Drew Westen for advocating more of the same emotionalism and for even implying that, to date, the Democrats’ approach has been based on reason and facts.

  • DonS

    I’d say Tom and Andy are a little touchy on this subject. Where in his post did Dr. Veith claim that Republicans have been the masters of reason and facts, particularly in political campaigns, which is the topic of the post? Yet you both responded, not by pointing out where he was wrong about Democrats, but by implying that it’s OK for Democrats not to deal with reason and facts because Republicans don’t either.

    Both parties emphasize emotional appeals during political campaigns. That’s a given, and it’s media-driven. The media doesn’t want to delve into issues, and they want to present political campaigns in soundbites and as horse races only. They love “gotcha” politics, particularly when scandals pop up along the way. It is our job as the citizens who are being railroaded to ruin through this political approach to call a halt to it. In this Internet age, seek out the details. Go to political “town meetings” and demand real answers to politicians. For Democrats, make them explain how ever increasing entitlements works budgetarily, in the long term. How do we avoid default while increasing entitlements and feeding public unions ever increasing benefits and pensions? Where is the real evidence for AGW, sufficient to justify serious damage to our economy to address it with measures that probably won’t work anyway? For Republicans, how do we roll these entitlements back and manage the budget without increasing deficits? How do we manage our resources so that we ensure a dependable and cheap energy supply without causing serious damage to the environment?

    In the meantime, Dr. Veith is right to call out a poser such as Drew Westen for advocating more of the same emotionalism and for even implying that, to date, the Democrats’ approach has been based on reason and facts.

  • sg

    Aren’t rational arguments wasted on the irrational?

    Isn’t that why they have political consultants rather than presenting their honest positions to the voting public?

    The original constitution limited voting to men 21 and older who were property owners. That is a select group of voters. It seems a proxy for the most rational group possible, as we acknowledge that a perfectly rational group is outside the range of human variation. Most would have families and a vested interest in the success of their towns, states and country.

  • sg

    Aren’t rational arguments wasted on the irrational?

    Isn’t that why they have political consultants rather than presenting their honest positions to the voting public?

    The original constitution limited voting to men 21 and older who were property owners. That is a select group of voters. It seems a proxy for the most rational group possible, as we acknowledge that a perfectly rational group is outside the range of human variation. Most would have families and a vested interest in the success of their towns, states and country.

  • David

    sg,
    you’re precisely the reason I am against home schooling

  • David

    sg,
    you’re precisely the reason I am against home schooling


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