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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Dems Can Tap the Political Brain

Robin Abcarian has an L.A. Times article about a book that is getting big buzz in political strategy circles, “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” by Drew Westen, a psychologist and brain researcher. Abcarian does an excellent job of mining the book’s main ideas and how it is being received.
Abcarian describes Westen’s book as providing “a grand unified theory of How Democrats Can Stop Blowing It,” and nails the Dems “single worst tendency: intellectual dispassion.” Abcarian notes also:

Westen writes that it doesn’t make sense to argue an issue using facts and figures and to count on voters — particularly the swing voters who decide national elections — to make choices based on sophisticated understandings of policy differences or procedures. He says Democratic candidates must learn to do what Republicans have understood for many years — they must appeal to emotions.

Westen explains further:

The political brain is an emotional brain.It prefers conclusions that are emotionally satisfying rather than conclusions that match the data

Westen’s buzz levels are approaching George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Westen has gotten rave reviews from a range of political luminaries, including Howard Dean, George Soros and American Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner, who says

This is the best thing I have read in 30 years…the book that should have been written a long time ago on why Democrats blow winnable elections. Even when public opinion is on their side, they don’t know how to optimize that.

There is a lot more quotable copy in Abcarian’s article, both pro and con. For those interested in political strategy, Abcarian’s article is a keeper.

One comment on “How Dems Can Tap the Political Brain

  1. jerseyverso on

    Regarding Abcarian’s article, Westen is reported to have said to Dems regarding Bush’s refusal to allow Rove to testify: “What is it about ‘So help me God’ that you find so offensive.” Better would be: “What is it about ‘I swear to tell the truth’ that you find so offensive.”


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