Newsweek and Sharon Begley have done a masterful job of exposing the nature of Fear and how it effects people during decision making. But Sharon has a tighter purpose in writing this science piece, she is applying it to the Politics of Fear that has always permeated politics but has been especially war-crafted by George Bush and the Republican party for the past 8-10 years. Remember that George Bush had been successful in Texas politics based in no small part on his ability to work with the opposition Democrats. In 2000, one of his key themes was “I am a Uniter not a Divider”. But despite that pledge Bush, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman chose a path of Fear. It was especially evident in the 2004 election when Bush and the Republicans converted more fully over to the dark side of the Politics of Fear.
This may have its initial repudiation in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses where the Republicans were outpolled by a margin of 3 to 1 well above the historical 1.4 to 1 in recent election years. But make no mistake, the Fear genie is out of the bottle . The Democrats are gearing up for fierce Swift-boating attacks in the upcoming general election. And negative ads, despite their dulling effect on voter turnout, are on a lot of Congressional candidates’, both Democratic and Republican, agendas as well.
What Sharon Begley has done is to carefully summarize some of the recent finding in Cognitive Science and Psychopathology and reveals how our primitive brain dominates our cortex in many decision making situations. One would expect the opposite, that reason would prevail. But the primitive, old brain pathways hold sway in many situations – not the least of which is political election choices. The article is chock full of great references to research in the field. For example I can highly recommend the work done by Drew Westen whose work is available here (be sure to download the free PDFs) and is summarized in the book, The Politcal Brain. However, there is much food for thought as to the nature of the odds as the Politics of Hope now takes on the Politics of Fear.
Before you read this, down a strong 5th – you may need it to get through all the implications.