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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 12 of 23 This is exactly where Drew Westen’s argument begins. A committed Democrat who wants to see more electoral success for his party, Westen spends much of his book identifying the errors of recent technocratic Democratic presidential candidates and highlighting the successful tactics of less brainy but more emotionally appealing Republicans. Al Gore is one of his prime targets. Looking over transcripts of his debates with George Bush in 2000, Westen finds “the heavy footprint of the dispassionate vision of the mind” in Gore’s responses, and blames this cold rationality for his loss. 28 Gore may be particularly easy to mock — the former vice president even likes to mock himself — but it goes beyond his particular wonkish obsessions. Democrats in general, Westen avers, are too cerebral: “Democrats, and particularly Democratic strategists, tend to be intellectual. They like to read and think. They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right.” 29 Truth and facts are all well and good, Westen said, but they don’t win elections. Voters are not moved by them. The mistake of most Democratic candidates and strategists — Bill Clinton is Westen’s lone hero, and perhaps we can add Barack Obama to the short list — is to assume that getting the better of the argument and racking up the most debating points will win the race. Drawing attention to the etymology of the words motivation and emotion, Westen finds a common Latin root, movere: to move. We are motivated to vote when we are moved by an emotion. And rationality, for all its power, does not move the average voter: “people vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the candidate who presents the best arguments.” 30 The dispassionate view of the mind that Gore adopted in his campaign, and the view he defends in his recent book, has a long and noble pedigree that is difficult to dismiss. The approach of “the social contract philosophers who 28 Drew Westen, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 127. 29 Westen, The Political Brain, 133. 30 Westen, The Political Brain, 125.

Authors: Mazie, Steven.
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Steven V. Mazie—MPSA 2008
A Clueless Electorate? The New Assault on the Reasonable Citizen
Page 12 of 23
This is exactly where Drew Westen’s argument begins. A committed Democrat
who wants to see more electoral success for his party, Westen spends much of his book
identifying the errors of recent technocratic Democratic presidential candidates and
highlighting the successful tactics of less brainy but more emotionally appealing
Republicans. Al Gore is one of his prime targets. Looking over transcripts of his debates
with George Bush in 2000, Westen finds “the heavy footprint of the dispassionate vision of
the mind” in Gore’s responses, and blames this cold rationality for his loss.
28
Gore may be
particularly easy to mock — the former vice president even likes to mock himself — but it
goes beyond his particular wonkish obsessions. Democrats in general, Westen avers, are
too cerebral: “Democrats, and particularly Democratic strategists, tend to be intellectual.
They like to read and think. They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and
getting the facts right.”
29
Truth and facts are all well and good, Westen said, but they don’t
win elections. Voters are not moved by them. The mistake of most Democratic candidates
and strategists — Bill Clinton is Westen’s lone hero, and perhaps we can add Barack
Obama to the short list — is to assume that getting the better of the argument and racking
up the most debating points will win the race.
Drawing attention to the etymology of the words motivation and emotion, Westen
finds a common Latin root, movere: to move. We are motivated to vote when we are
moved by an emotion. And rationality, for all its power, does not move the average voter:
“people vote for the candidate who elicits the right feelings, not the candidate who
presents the best arguments.”
30
The dispassionate view of the mind that Gore adopted in
his campaign, and the view he defends in his recent book, has a long and noble pedigree
that is difficult to dismiss. The approach of “the social contract philosophers who
28
Drew Westen, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the
Nation (New York: Public Affairs, 2007), 127.
29
Westen, The Political Brain, 133.
30
Westen, The Political Brain, 125.


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