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A Clueless Electorate? Assessing the New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen
Unformatted Document Text:  Steven V. Mazie—MPSA 2008 A Clueless Electorate? The New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen Page 11 of 23 to affect reason than reason does to affect emotions,” and feelings have “a much greater impact on decision making than logic and reason.” 26 Hmmm. All this might sound antithetical to Gore’s main argument: First he claims that a number of recent trends, led by George Bush and his rationality-hating administration, have combined to wage an assault on the reason that once guided voters in America’s marketplace of ideas. Next he tells us that, whoever the president and whatever amount of sex-violence-and-terrorism filled television we consume, we are bound to make decisions emotionally anyway. So who is really to blame: Bush et al., or the structure of our nervous systems? Gore’s attempt to square the circle is simply this: “the rise of these leaders serves only to exacerbate the decline of reason and further jeopardize our democracy.” 27 In other words, reason is already under threat and democracy is jeopardized, in large part due to human physiology. Pity us that George Bush is eroding what little rationality remains in human competence and democratic politics. But the more problematic irony of Gore’s argument is found in its recommendations for the rebirth of reason. The key for Gore lies in Lincoln’s directive that “reason — cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason — must furnish all materials for our future support and defense.” In line with this call for rationality, Gore proposes changes in educational policy and new uses for the Internet that might improve public discourse and contribute to the creation of a well-informed and well-connected citizenry. But in pushing for these ideas, Gore seems to ignore the evidence he takes from neurology. If we are destined to make decisions based largely on our emotions — and if “cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason” is at best a mirage — then solutions to our present quandaries must draw upon a much wider range of human capacities than just our critical rationality. 26 Gore, The Assault on Reason, 28. 27 Gore, The Assault on Reason, 44.

Authors: Mazie, Steven.
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Steven V. Mazie—MPSA 2008
A Clueless Electorate? The New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen
Page 11 of 23
to affect reason than reason does to affect emotions,” and feelings have “a much greater
impact on decision making than logic and reason.”
26
Hmmm. All this might sound
antithetical to Gore’s main argument: First he claims that a number of recent trends, led
by George Bush and his rationality-hating administration, have combined to wage an
assault on the reason that once guided voters in America’s marketplace of ideas. Next he
tells us that, whoever the president and whatever amount of sex-violence-and-terrorism
filled television we consume, we are bound to make decisions emotionally anyway. So
who is really to blame: Bush et al., or the structure of our nervous systems? Gore’s
attempt to square the circle is simply this: “the rise of these leaders serves only to
exacerbate the decline of reason and further jeopardize our democracy.”
27
In other words,
reason is already under threat and democracy is jeopardized, in large part due to human
physiology. Pity us that George Bush is eroding what little rationality remains in human
competence and democratic politics.
But the more problematic irony of Gore’s argument is found in its
recommendations for the rebirth of reason. The key for Gore lies in Lincoln’s directive
that “reason — cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason — must furnish all materials for
our future support and defense.” In line with this call for rationality, Gore proposes
changes in educational policy and new uses for the Internet that might improve public
discourse and contribute to the creation of a well-informed and well-connected citizenry.
But in pushing for these ideas, Gore seems to ignore the evidence he takes from neurology.
If we are destined to make decisions based largely on our emotions — and if “cold,
calculating, unimpassioned reason” is at best a mirage — then solutions to our present
quandaries must draw upon a much wider range of human capacities than just our critical
rationality.
26
Gore, The Assault on Reason, 28.
27
Gore, The Assault on Reason, 44.


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