Subordinating Logic to Emotion

As conservatives, we enjoy the distinct advantage of dealing from logic rather than emotion.

We don’t get wrapped up in sob stories; instead, we understand that the best way to help those who need it is to make changes on the systemic level by facilitating economic and job growth for everyone.  We don’t squander an entire health care system for the sake of forcing accessibility for the relatively few uninsured; instead, we propose changes on the systemic level that harness the free market in order to drive down prices in favor of increased accessibility for all.

We separate emotion and logic, saving emotion for our private lives while reserving logic for the public arena, knowing that emotional detachment is key to solving the problems that affect all of us with solutions that will serve everyone.

As an aside, that’s essentially why I often have difficulty reconciling the fiscal and social sectors of conservatism.  Social conservatism is inherently derived from emotion, and the politics and policies which are espoused by social conservatives are often a byproduct of the same.  While emotion is important in personal life, in the context of the public political arena the advocation of social conservatism often exposes a hypocrisy in the conservative message — we want less government interference in your life, except for here, here, here, and here.

Taken strictly, though, the conservative message is rooted in the proper size, scope, role and function of a limited government.  Tough decisions are par for the course when it comes to maintaining that proper scope, and in those difficult decisions there is little, if any, room for emotion.

Right now, there are two storylines I see emerging on and from the American right that have me worried that conservatives are becoming increasingly incapable of keeping emotion at bay in favor of a logistical approach to principle.  Those two storylines are below.

‘To Skip, or Not to Skip?’

From Jonathan Karl at ABC News this morning:

In an interview this morning in Columbia, SC, Jim DeMint told me he’ll probably skip President Obama’s speech to joint session of Congress on Thursday.

“If he sent a written proposal over first, I would go hear him explain it, but frankly right now I’m so frustrated I don’t think I’m going to go,” DeMint told ABC News.

I wish he would reconsider.  By skipping the president’s speech tomorrow night, I fear that Senator DeMint and others are subordinating logic in favor of emotion.  It doesn’t work.

I understand what Senator DeMint is saying.  I understand his frustration–I feel it, too!–and I would love for the president to skip the platitudes and put specifics in writing.  However, we need to think perceptionally here.  We need to think in terms of what is gained and what is lost by skipping the president’s speech.

By avoiding the joint session of Congress tomorrow night, DeMint and other Republicans could be able to marginally solidify support in a base of people already firmly in their corner.  That’s a gain, for sure.  Still, their absence will play right into the meme currently being perpetuated by a sycophantic mainstream press desperately trying to paint the GOP as obstructionists with nothing to contribute, and it will rob the Republicans of the opportunity to truthfully stand in front of America and say that “yes, we were there,” and “yes, we listened to what the president had to say,” but that “we cannot seem to discern the difference between this $300 billion spending spree masquerading as a jobs program and the previous $800 billion failure known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

In law school, the very first thing we were taught in Trial Advocacy was that, if the other side is imploding, we should sit there, smile, and let it happen.  Don’t make faces.  Don’t blurt anything out.  Don’t applaud or exhibit overt schadenfreude.  Don’t do anything that can draw the ire of the judge — just let the other side implode.  President Obama is imploding, and he’s about to once again cut into the daily lives of everyday Americans to serve up a healthy helping of the very same platitudes and policies that got us here in the first place.  Senator DeMint and the Republicans should do what I was taught in Trial Advocacy: sit there, smile, and let the president implode.

The same thing goes for the decision by GOP lawmakers to forego the opportunity to offer a rebuttal to the president’s speech on Thursday. For the life of me, I cannot understand the logic in failing to take advantage of a chance to communicate directly to the American people.  What good does it serve?  I understand that Republicans, like many Americans, are frustrated with the lack of substance from the White House, but I do not understand why they would pass on the opportunity to highlight the president’s failures to a captive audience fresh off of nearly an hour of untruths, fuzzy math and empty promises.

The American Left routinely abandons a logistical approach to policy in favor of a knee-jerk emotional response to reality.  We see how it works for them.  We know how we roll our eyes at their idealism and their lack of common sense.  I hope that the Republicans reconsider and avoid following their counterparts from across the proverbial aisle down that particular rabbit hole.

‘It’s My Candidate, or it’s Nobody’

This morning, at RedState.com, Erick Erickson published a fantastic piece of writing about Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and their ardent leagues of supporters. A few excerpts:

[A] lot of us fell in love with Sarah Palin because of her enemies and a lot of us have fallen out of love with Sarah Palin because of her fans.

For the past year, Palin fans have become an online fixture with more venom and insanity than the most rabid Ron Paul fan. They have not evangelized on behalf of Sarah Palin trying to lead people to Sarah Palin, they have freaked a lot of us out.

Sarah Palin is a great person. She’s a great fighter. She draws in awesome attention and rallies a crowd. She has some terrific and loyal supporters I don’t want to lump in with the loud voices largely now disconnected from political reality. Ron Paul is the same way. But at some point, Sarah Palin has to take some responsibility for her supporters as Ron Paul must for his. Palin’s dragging out the tease on her decision has compounded the problem and we’ve reached a breaking point.

We should not set Palin on a pedestal so high she shatters if she falls off, but that’s what her most ardent fans have done. Thanks to Palin’s own conduct, if she does shatter by either not running or running and losing the nomination, the Palin Fan Cult gives me and many others the strong impression they’d rather shatter all the other candidates than have anyone but Palin herself win.

In the process, these people have overshadowed the efforts and desires of many reasonable Palin supporters who are just ready to either vote for Palin or be told of her decision not to run so they can go support someone else.

Like Erick, I enjoy both Palin and Paul and agree with them more often than I do not.  However, with regard to those two in particular, I honestly believe that we are once again subordinating logic to emotion.  Supporting a candidate is one thing, but when it comes to Palin and Paul, their most ardent supporters have devolved their principled support to the point where they are irretrievably emotionally invested in their respective candidacies.

Support of a candidate should be rooted in logic, not emotion.  Doing otherwise will allow significant room for the development of It’s-My-Candidate-Or-It’s-Nobody Syndrome, when someone who can fairly espouse those same core principles of limited government could be out there needing a vote.

Now, that’s not to say that we should abandon principle.  It’s easy to get emotionally invested in principle.  There is a difference, however, in being emotionally invested in principle and being similarly invested in personality.

Look, emotion has its place.  After sitting in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit with my daughter back in the spring of 2006 and seeing the other, much smaller newborns thriving despite myriad difficulties, I had a fundamental sea change when it came to my perspective on life.  I am pro-life because of emotion and faith, but my awareness of the inherent hypocrisy as noted above trumps that emotion and allows for a logistical approach to laissez faire governance to prevail.

We need to subordinate emotion for logic instead of the other way around.  Only then will we be able to restore order to this nation and the way that it is governed.  Only then will we be able to systematically serve all of the people.

 

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Comments

  1. Sgt. Chuck B says:

    Great essay, Mr. Schreiber. I am a Ron Paul fan for sure but cannot agree more.

  2. FB00756 says:

    Just when we start to see conservatives breaking from the leftist tendencies that have consumed so many RINOs, we have to worry about them adopting the emotional reactionary ways of the left.

    Nicely put, Jeff. Well thought out.

    Fred

  3. whats_up says:

    Jeff,

    Very good article and I agree with your observations. Many Social Conservative are actually big govt types. As long as that big govt agrees with them.

  4. Jordan Bell says:

    I am a Ron Paul supporter because he is a principled man who fundamentally understands the concept of personal responsibility, liberty, private property, sound money, etc. Not to mention he has a thirty year track record to support this. Why would I waste my time supporting any other flip flopper or lip servicer, regardless of them being a D or an R? If your principles support the free market and a laissez faire government, then using logic will bring you to only one candidate. Emotion takes you to all the rest.

    There was a good analogy to this in a link I sent you yesterday. The Democrats will run you into the wall at 150mph, the Republicans at 102mph. You will die either way. Ron Paul is the only one who will take you at 200mph in the opposite direction towards freedom and prosperity.

    http://lewrockwell.com/wilson-brian/wilson-brian27.1.html

  5. bobupton says:

    Kudos on another spot-on thought provoker.

    I was a little confused with some of the either/or implications regarding logic and emotion but you summed it up nicely with that last paragraph when you stated,”We need to subordinate emotion for logic instead of the other way around.”

    People are being brought up to respond to their emotions instead of adhering to principles. Emotions are changeable and volatile while principles are foundational and steadying.

    People led by their emotions are easily led while people of principle are not easily moved. Emotions are inescapable but they can be trained through self-discipline. Logic (and principles) are indispensable and can be attained through self-discipline.

    The first step in self-discipline is learning what is true.

    Keep teaching, Jeff

  6. Randy Wills says:

    Great point, Jeff, and we need to keep pounding it home. The worse thing that could happen in 2012 is for disgruntled Republicans to sit on their hands or pursue the third-party path. I hope that we’ve learned our lesson on that folly.

    I, like most others, have preferences among the current candidates, and I will support those people throughout the primaries, but once the Republican nominee has been chosen, no hard feelings. The nominee will have my full-throated support.

    Rightfully speaking, we shouldn’t be so myoptic that we wouldn’t also consider the relative merits of the opposite party’s nominee, but, in this case, we know who the opposing candidate will be so that won’t take a lot of my scarcer-by-the-day brain power this time around.

    Randy

  7. Anonymous says:

    2012 shaping up to be more of the same. Like the kid in the sock commercial, I’m sick of it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Quoting from Harrison J. Bounels facebook post:

    Rick Perry gave me a ring last night.

    Perry said, “Sir, you know Texas has had devastating fires this past week. They have destroyed over a thousand homes and over 100,000 acres.”

    I leaned back and put my feet up and said “So YOU’RE asking for MY help? You, the guy who says he doesn’t want federal money? The guy who thinks his state is ‘special’? You remember I turned you down before.”

    There’s nothing I like better than a cowboy like Perry coming to me hat in hand.

    Perry said “Listen, mister. This is the Great State of Texas you’re messing with and you know what I think about THAT! And you had better NOT have your feet on the Resolute Desk. I expect that beauty to be scruff-free when I move into the Oval!”

    He scared me so much I sat right up.

    Perry said “Okay. That’s more like it. Now, about helping these folks in Texas….”

    I hate Texans.

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