Emotion and Politics

I have a theory that I’ve entertained for quite some time. I even considered writing a book about it at one point, but decided against it when all I could find on the topic were psychological treatises (a bit over my grade level). Works/writings by the average layperson were next to non-existent, although Michael Shermer did offer some input in The Believing Brain — but it simply wasn’t enough.

So what is this earth-shattering theory?

It’s my contention that those who follow the conservative/Republican point of view tend to be very deeply emotional individuals.

As many have expressed here and elsewhere, whenever the subject of Trump and/or his policies has arisen in a conversation, the discussion often devolves into little more than insults and verbal abuse from the Trump supporter.

(Regrettably, on occasion, these exchanges have resulted in lost or strained friendships and/or damaged family relationships.)

However, as many will attest, such incidents are not limited just to the topic of Trump. Discussions that include Democratic vs. Republican points of view frequently devolve into angry words and name-calling as well. Even in my own household, I find I must avoid any type of political discussion since we are on opposite sides of the fence and it can get “emotional” (on his side) quite rapidly.

Online social media has become a breeding ground for such reactions. And things get especially intense among those who are prone to conspiracy theories.

As I said at the beginning, this is strictly a personal theory based on my own experiences and observations. I cannot authenticate it with reams of psychological papers and writings.

IMPRORTANT NOTE: I am NOT saying that those who lean to the left are guiltless. We all have our breaking point. It just seems (to me) that such emotional reactions prevail among those who support a more conservative point of view. (Some may also see a connection to religious beliefs.)

Your thoughts?

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

45 thoughts on “Emotion and Politics

  1. If there were no emotions involved at all, then there wouldn’t be any point in voting. However, those who have the evidence and reason on their side are usually able to keep the emotions under control. For those who do not have supporting evidence, emotions are about all that they have.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. They’re overly emotional because they know they’re wrong and are on the wrong side of history… which is also why they project, like calling liberally-minded people snowflakes when it is them who are in fact the delicate princesses 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I have often wondered if a lack of empathy plays a role in subscribers as well. I have found that many times, folks from the conservative end of the spectrum have real difficulty with *thought experiments*, in which you try to imagine the situation from another person’s point of view.

    They cannot imagine how their religion looks to people outside their religion.

    They cannot imagine the conditions in another country that might drive a person to this one.

    They cannot imagine being factually mistaken, but feeling that they are in the right.

    They cannot consider almost any line of evidence on politics or religion while “suspending judgement” or their own present beliefs.

    This inability really seems to make conversations difficult. I’m not entirely sure it is the same as being emotional, per se. It is more of an inability, or a muted ability, to empathize and try on other lenses.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Matt,

      You have hit on an important HUMAN neurological “variable,” or one of several components comprising psychological, human self-intent versus collective collaboration: Empathy.

      Sigmund Freud would argue that Ego is perhaps heavily involved in our daily goings on, particularly within sociopolitical interactions. And one of my favorite advocates of Empathy proposes quality methods and tools to improve our human empathy toward others. His name? Roman Krznaric.

      https://www.romankrznaric.com/empathy-a-handbook-for-revolution

      Here is one of my fondest real-life illustration of just how powerful empathy, when mastered, actually works:

      [I will add the video below in the next comment-reply since I don’t know Nan’s spam-settings for number of weblinks per comment 😁]

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Nan, if you still have the desire to write that book on this topic WITH (at least a start) on scholarly studies, journals, and sources, I’ve written 1-2 blog-posts on that topic: emotional/neurological influences upon human intent, cognition, and action… if you are interested. Contact me via my personal email addy that you have—when you justifiably have the need to reprimand me on misbehavior here on your fine blog. 😉 🤭❤️

    I’m happy to share them if you so desire Madame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Regarding “our thoughts, my thoughts” on this polarizing predicament we Americans now find ourselves, all I will add further to what I’ve already mentioned above with Matt and here is that there are also those radicals who simply REFUSE to budge from their own self-proclaimed Rightness, if you will, or piety and “intelligence” or wisdom from personal life experiences. They are literally human versions of stubborn mules/asses that just will not budge from their entrenched position. I liken them to those frogs who refuse to jump out of the frying pan as the rest of the world, science, and collective progressing intelligence around them… leave them behind. Those “frogs” eventually go extinct. Although for some of us, NOT SOON ENOUGH! 😄 Natural Selection is BEAUTIFUL indeed, and very much needed, but damn does it take too long sometimes. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • My desire to write the book has diminished over time (which involves “age”) and I no longer have the energy or the drive that such an endeavor requires. But I do appreciate your offer.

      I might add that I do feel somewhat validated in that you also have considered this in past blog posts. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I completely understand your reasons Nan. I am right there with you. 😄 Writing, editing, re-editing, finding a suitable reputable publishing house, etc, etc, is very much a draining endeavor. You MUST have the required stamina and determination to see it all through. Those are all demands we who are… umm, how shall I say… “advanced in our years of experience” 😉 must now conserve and closely guard what we expend and take on, as well as the cost (on several levels) to tackle such a noble endeavor, huh? LOL

        Validation? Certainly Ma’am. You are most welcome. It is a subject, perhaps an unpopular, unconventional subject to write about, let alone promote it enough to be worth the large investment. Hell, how many people/readers out there truly get excited about diving into their intimate consciousness, neurology, psychology, and personality—that btw, was influenced, molded by their parents, grandparents, etc, et al—to where it might feel as if you are UNDRESSING them bare, right down to hidden unknown secrets that even THEY are too scared to know or make public! 😯😄 It’s down right intolerable to make one’s self vulnerable! “Lions, tigers, and bears, OH MY!” says the one who has the most to hide and lose. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  5. i’m not sure whether I’d equate emotions, which covers a range of feelings, with the anger and hate that I see. President Biden announces his names for Cabinet and as group they decide no females of colour will be allowed in. No given and take, no exceptions and this is to be the right’s policy.
    Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • Agreed David. Those are the stubborn mules/asses who refuse to see the evolution of human progress and intelligence… from the world community of scholarly academia that is. Still way too many ultra-Conservative “frogs” all too happy to stay put in their hot frying pans. 🙄🤦‍♂️

      Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with you. It’s not emotion. It’s knee-jerk feeling, which is a different thing altogether. They’re not really processing what they’re feeling, which is what emotional thought is. They’re just “feeling”.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It seems, Nan, that people who are not trained, or have not taken the time to teach themselves, how to put their knee-jerk reactions on hold long enough to think rationally about a situation are most prone to being manipulated, as they have been for so long, and to wanting it all back, the way it was, for them, with no regard for how things are objectively, let alone for others.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is a solid statement … “wanting it all back, the way it was, for them”.

      I see this again and again in the more “mature” individuals, but it seems to permeate among others as well. I’m certainly no youngster, but I have earnestly tried to “keep up” with the world around me. Sure, things have changed –and not always for the better– but that’s how it’s been and how it’s always going to be. To try to “force” society to stagnate is a hopeless task … yet many, many try their darndest to “make it so.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If they are “deeply emotional”, then their emotional range seems to be rather limited. That is, they are deeply shallow. I see a lot of anger and hate and what they themselves claim is fear, but little or no capacity for empathy, contemplation, regret, or awe. They claim to “love” their own kind rather than hating others, but I never see any evidence of it. Their perception of emotion also tends to be coarse-grained, unable to differentiate distinct concepts — as shown (for example) by their insistence that under Trump our country was “respected” by other countries, because they don’t realize that respect is different from fear.

    At any rate, emotion without reason is something of an unguided missile. Emotion produces a lot of energy, but reason is needed to identify logical goals and targets.

    Easily feeling anger at encountering a different point of view is probably a product of their zealous avoidance of any sources of information which contradict their existing world-view (something of which many on the left are also guilty, unfortunately) and conspiracy-theory-fueled tendency to ascribe all opposition to malevolence. That is, they have no experience with dealing with disagreement, and are primed to interpret disagreement as evil.

    the discussion often devolves into little more than insults and verbal abuse from the Trump supporter

    Well, that’s about all Trump himself had to offer most of the time. That’s part of why they like him — his limitations validate their own.

    Liked by 5 people

    • No surprise everyone… very well stated Infidel, as usual. 😉

      The entire concept is actually quite simple: cognitively, imaginatively, and emotionally REMOVE your brain from your own existence, patterns of thinking and feeling, and then with a blank slate put yourself in that person’s or culture’s shoes. Throw out, or at least try your hardest, to throw out ALL of your own biases and personal history! Start from zero then listen, listen, observe, and listen/watch some more without interjecting your own opinions and background.

      Pffffftttt. What tha hell is so hard about doing that!? 🤷‍♂️😄

      But fyi… if you train yourself repeatedly, multiple times to do that by going out to those people who are different than you or VERY different, then it can be done. It HAS been done successfully over many centuries. Therefore, there is no excuse not to do it. And therein lies the next introverted problem. 😉

      Great comment/contribution Infidel. 👍🏼

      Liked by 2 people

  8. My take on this topic, Nan, for what it is worth, is the dark or light two-party political system. If you are not for me, you are agin me. The two party system allows for no middle ground. Hate it or leave it. Love does not seem to be an alternative.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Believe it or not, there are a couple of other political parties, but they’ve never gained a foothold in the U.S. political world. If a third party does come about, as of right now, it most likely would be the MAGA party. If, by chance, it does come about, hopefully it won’t gain any more traction that the others have.

      Like

      • MAGA = REPUGLYCANS. A new party would have to offer something different. As example, in Canada our main 3rd party, never popular enough federally to gain power, is the socialist party. They don’t win, but they are strong enough to affect policy. Because of them we have public health care and a lot of other social programs. Especially in minority governments, they often hold the balance of power.
        In a two party system which is effectively what you have, there is no such thing as a minority government. Someone always has a majority.
        The biggest difference, though, is that voters have to be Democrats or Republicans if they want to have real representation, or they have to be non-voters, who get slammed for not taking part in a system that does not work for them. But the system offers them nothing, so why should they participate?
        I’m not saying America needs a socialist party, it probably would be weaker than the Canadian NDP. But it does need an Environmental party that chooses the environment over the economic system, or an Income Equality party, that wants to bring about a true classless society. These are just off the cuff suggestions, of course. Someone who knows your political and economic systems should do much better than that. But White Supremicists versus rich socialist-leaning mostly white men. The difference is negligible. You need a wider range of choices. IN MY MIND.

        Liked by 1 person

        • True enough that a new party would/should offer something different. But to those who support the Orange Monster, they believe they ARE offering something different.

          The conservative arm of the Republicans (and there are some) actually don’t support all that the Fat-T has put forth so a MAGA party would/could be a viable party.

          Besides, referencing the subject of my post … the folks that would make up the MAGA party tend to be VERY emotional! Case in point: January 6, 2021.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Looking from the outside, Jan. 6th was not about emotion, unless you call attacking democratic principles and symbols emotional.
            Jan. 6th was about running wild, sticking it to the man, being free to step on anyone who gets in your way. Emotions, not for the trespassers!
            For those who believe in democracy, that day was filled with emotion, all of it negative.

            Like

          • Trumpism/MAGA does actually differ from traditional Republican policies in some substantive ways. It’s strongly against foreign wars, for example, being more isolationist than imperialist or interested in American leadership. It doesn’t particularly value the free market, being supportive of government manipulation of the economy to achieve particular goals, though those are very different goals from those of the left. It’s much more openly racist, turning what used to be dog whistles into nuclear air-raid sirens. It has no respect for institutions or tradition (Trumpanzees often talk about “the Constitution”, but they clearly have no idea what it actually says, and just mean “whatever we happen to want”), caring only about achieving its goals by any means necessary. It doesn’t much care about Wall Street or the interests of the rich (Republicans in power still do, but they’re Republicans, not rank-and-file Trumpanzees). It’s driven by visceral hatred of liberals, gays, immigrants, uppity women, etc. and views hurting such people as a goal in itself, not merely an acceptable side effect of achieving other goals. A true Trumpanzee party would behave very differently than the Republican party does, in several important ways.

            I would support the existence of such a party because it might well attract enough supporters to divide the right-wing vote and allow Democrats to win many races they otherwise could not. This is why third parties never get anywhere in the US — all they could accomplish if they did is to divide the vote on one side and help the opposing side win. I’m hoping the Trumpanzees will be too dumb to realize that, at least for a couple of election cycles.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Conservatives seem to invest a lot of their ego into their beliefs and views, but I wouldn’t say emotion, although the two are connected.

    They are usually religious and would rather die than admit to ever being wrong and in fact can’t even entertain the notion that their beliefs are archaic and from another era. And I see a true desire to judge other people, a need, if you will.

    Same with their propensity to believe in conspiracy theories. It’s like they “want” to believe that everyone else is out to get them. Republican politics play into this and they know these people are gullible and susceptible.

    With all this swirling in their heads, there is no room for empathy or sympathy. Emotion would be on the negative angry side, not emotion of caring or appreciation or wonder. It’s a negative ego driven emotion.

    Another good example is climate change denial. The emotion is in denial rather than the appreciation of nature and all its wonders, thus instilling a desire to protect it.

    Equal rights. It’s fear that too many will have the same privileges they have.

    Women’s rights. For some men this can be an especially hot button to push.

    BLM. Why does that make them so angry? Most non conservatives agree that the history of blacks in America is a terrible one and can understand the long haul they have had and still have, but not conservatives.

    And they can not see that the equality gap in income is driving much of our problems because again it’s a sense of privilege and ego for the “haves”.

    So no, I don’t think of it as well rounded emotion, but purely negative.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve found we operate within profoundly different moral frameworks. “Emotion” isn’t a label I would pin too strongly on conservatives, because I’ve found myself to be much more emotion-driven and sympathetic to difficulties of others. While my right-leaning friends posts about gas prices in the new administration, I think of my outrage at the border wall and Muslim ban early last administration and think, “we are not the same.” If your emotions are triggered by taxes and mine by human rights crises, we’re operating on different levels, or at least origins, of emotion.

    An excellent resource I’ve found on emotion and conflicting political ideologies is “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt. My last roommate was very conservative and this book helped me understand why I think he’s a heartless jackass and why he thinks I’m an antipatriotic idiot, and how it’s hard to understand emotional and rational drivers from people opposing you on the political spectrum.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A third group we tend to leave out in these discussions are the apathetic. They’re people who simply don’t care about any of these issues and their world is very tiny and simple.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And what a large group that is! In fact, most of my friends fall into that category, which is almost equally frustrating for me to think they have no emotional investment anywhere outside their personal sphere.

        Liked by 2 people

    • At this point in my life, I probably won’t buy the book you suggest. However, reading the reviews on Amazon, it appears to offer considerable food for thought when it comes to the “political divide.”

      P.S. I found it online as a free epub book and I do have Calibre so … 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • I just now read the first few lines — and I simply MUST ask! What were your thoughts about the dog and the chicken at your first reading? I mostly snickered at the chicken story since it seems to me there’s a bit of a anatomical hitch.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I had to re-read the beginning (how’d I forget THAT?!), and now I remember it quite well. Your instinct is correct – I think it’s more of a “gotcha” beginning than anything else. I was a bit nauseated but it faded quickly. Bestiality does not resurface as a central theme in the book. lol

            Liked by 1 person

            • Just came across this in the book and felt it fit in with my post:

              If you really want to change someone’s mind on a
              moral or political matter, you’ll need to see things from that person’s
              angle as well as your own. And if you do truly see it the other
              person’s way—deeply and intuitively—you might even find your own
              mind opening in response. Empathy is an antidote to righteousness,
              although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide.

              Personally, I tend to think very few of us are able to truly “see things from that person’s angle.” We SAY we can, but our own emotions and background and personal history tend to get in the way.

              P.S. So far, I’m really enjoying the book! Thanks for suggesting it.

              Liked by 1 person

            • YES! That segment lays the groundwork for much of Haidt’s exploration into the psychology of political divide. I’ll be interested to get your take on the different frameworks of morality (e.g. Care/Fairness, Authority, etc.). Often I reflect on those when I encounter seemingly insurmountable differences among friends and colleagues.
              Sorry I’m only now replying, by the way. Sometimes I don’t see notifications on my dashboard for some reason. Hope you’re still enjoying!

              Liked by 1 person

  11. I am as guilty as any of my Republican friends of going off the edge when discussing, (and I use this word loosely) this topic, What really ticks me off is, I really believe Trump is as dangerous to the world as Hitler was and I simply can’t understand why, in spite of all the evidence that he has given us, my friends on the other side continue to portray him as some kind of saint. I am afraid, and I think that is the correct word here, that if he continues to garner support from the electorate in 2024, and they put his past atrocities behind them and re-elect him as their President, that will be the end of the Democratic System of government in the USA, and this trend will continue to many of the developing countries throughout the world. I get passionate because I believe the stakes are that high, and it boggles my mind that so many people do not see the danger, not only to themselves, but to everyone else who truly believe that the will of the people should be sacrosanct.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. They are wired that way, by nature and by nurture.

    Authoritarian personalities are based on, and operate from, emotion. Suspicion, resentment, anger, and hate are all inflated and employed by the authoritarian Right.

    “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers,” co-authored by John W. Dean and Bob Altemeyer examines the authoritarian mind-set of Trump and his followers.

    Here are some illuminating articles on the brains and beliefs of authoritarians and conservatives. All of the former are included in the latter, of course.

    Conservatives Big on Fear, Brain Study Finds: Are people born conservative? Article from Psychology Today in 2011:
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/201104/conservatives-big-fear-brain-study-finds

    Article from Scientific American in 2020:
    https://scientificamerican.com/article/conservative-and-liberal-brains-might-have-some-real-differences/…

    Wikipedia page on Biology & political orientation:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_political_orientation

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092984/

    CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS DO THINK DIFFERENTLY Research shows different ways of solving everyday problems linked to political ideology
    https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2016/03/political-insight-republicans-democrats-conservatives-liberals-think-differently

    Like

    • Hello Dave. Your comment ended up in my Spam folder — most likely due to the number of links. As you can see, I did rescue it; however, a couple of the links were bad –one came up a “403” (cell.com) and one required a subscription sign-in (sciguru.org)– so I deleted those two. If you wish to submit them again, please ensure they’re accessible. The others seem relevant to my post.

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll return.

      Like

  13. Since several of you seem to be in disagreement with my terminology of “emotional,” I offer the following:

    Emotional: Determined or actuated by emotion rather than reason (which is what I believe is behind much of Republican thinking).

    Synonyms: excitable, angry, full of rage, agitated, vehement, intense, unreserved, unrestrained

    I agree the word also carries meaning on the other side of the fence since it can also mean passionate, warm, sentimental, enamored, etc.

    However, judging from what I read on social media (including blogs), those that support the “conservative” political position are adamant about their beliefs … and they clearly reflect the synonyms I listed above. And I further believe it is emotion-driven when individuals lose friends and family due to differences in political leanings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well fortunately I have no family or close friends who support trump in any way. But I’ve had acquaintances , two stepsons and a few Facebook friends. I have not had arguments with them, but simply dropped them from my life. For me, it’s a moral issue and their toxicity to the welfare of all mankind, animal life and the planet. Just don’t want this type of person in my life. There is no convincing them or making them use reason or critical thinking, as it won’t happen. I can be civil, but that’s as far as it goes.
      Yes we can all act on emotion, good or bad emotions, but it’s the moral and ethical basis, that is the key.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This was a wonderful article but one that has left me scratching my head.

    I often Pride myself on being able to look at another persons point of view. Most times though, the point of you is coming from some shared truth. In The case of some Trump supporters, and they are not all politically conservative, there many times seems to be A lack of reason. Therefore, no real ability to sit and have a conversation/debate. It’s honestly very scary for me at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Will! Thank you for stopping by.

      I think many of us do TRY to look at other’s viewpoints, but experience proves there are those who are so entrenched in their beliefs and opinions, political discussions end up in a shouting match and, in some cases, a loss of friendship.

      There will always be differences in opinion among people. It’s all about how we handle those differences.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My sister has an on/off switch. If it is Mexican, she hates it. If it is black, she hates it. If it is Pilipino it is “ching-chong”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We fell out over this. She turned into a person who believes in all this q anon bullshit. I held on as long as i could and so did she. We didn’t want to lose our family. She is my only birth sister.
      But she went all trump. She was waving that “thin blue line ” flag. She got involved with a married man, a wannabe proudboy who treats her like his weekend piece on the side.
      I can’t fix that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s truly sad what can happen in families that support Trump. It’s almost like they have been snatched up by aliens and had their brains zapped.

        Sorry about your sister.

        Like

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