The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation Review

The Political Brain is a groundbreaking investigation into the role of emotion in determining the political life of the nation. For two decades Drew Westen, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has explored a theory of the mind that differs substantially from the more "dispassionate" notions held by most cognitive psychologists, political scientists, and economists—and Democratic campaign strategists. The idea of the mind as a cool calculator that makes decisions by weighing the evidence bears no relation to how the brain actually works. When political candidates assume voters dispassionately make decisions based on "the issues," they lose. That's why only one Democrat has been re-elected to the presidency since Franklin Roosevelt—and only one Republican has failed in that quest. In politics, when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. Elections are decided in the marketplace of emotions, a marketplace filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory, in which logic plays only a supporting role. Westen shows, through a whistle-stop journey through the evolution of the passionate brain and a bravura tour through fifty years of American presidential and national elections, why campaigns succeed and fail. The evidence is overwhelming that three things determine how people vote, in this order: their feelings toward the parties and their principles, their feelings toward the candidates, and, if they haven't decided by then, their feelings toward the candidates' policy positions.

Westen turns conventional political analyses on their head, suggesting that the question for Democratic politics isn't so much about moving to the right or the left but about moving the electorate. He shows how it can be done through examples of what candidates have said—or could have said—in debates, speeches, and ads. Westen's discoveries could utterly transform electoral arithmetic, showing how a different view of the mind and brain leads to a different way of talking with voters about issues that have tied the tongues of Democrats for much of forty years—such as abortion, guns, taxes, and race. You can't change the structure of the brain. But you can change the way you appeal to it. And here's how…

Title:The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
Edition Language:English

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • John

    The book started off in superb fashion-tossing out psychological gems like candy to the reader, but the grotesque bias that clouds an otherwise intelligent person makes this a difficult read and an aw...

  • Austin Kleon

    Very good. My map: ...

  • Gordon

    In the 2004 Presidential election, George Bush beat John Kerry by “Swift Boating” him. Karl Rove, Bush’s campaign strategist, recruited a group of military veterans of the Republican far-right p...

  • Isis

    The thesis of this book is that voters make choices based on emotion ("gut") rather than on logical reasoning, and that Republicans understand this and use it to advantage in their ads and speeches, w...

  • Charlene

    This book could have been titled, "How Liberals Can Be More Effective When They Stop Relying on Facts and Begin to Understand Emotions of the Masses and What Drives Decision Making."I am a diehard lib...

  • Bruce

    I echo Robert Kuttner's and Bill Clinton's comments : This is the most illuminating book about American politics I've ever read. The author is a clinical and theoretical psychologist who also has an i...

  • Daniel Clausen

    I read parts of this book as part of a discussion group. The discussion group presented parts of the book as mini-posts. I didn't get to finish the book, but I loved the main point--that politicians s...

  • Gary

    The book lays out the universal way we see and develop our beliefs concerning the world in the realm of politics. The first third of the book was masterful when the author stuck to the science (mostly...

  • Ericka

    I'm still in the middle of this, and though I like it, I'm a bit concerned about some of the language of the book. However, these issues aside (and lets see if they are answered by the end of the book...

  • Pat Simen

    This book is absolutely fantastic. It combines the stuff that I work on in my research (how emotion affects decision making) with an analysis of failed Democratic political campaigns of the past. Asid...