Browsing through this fine establishment this evening, I first thumbed through a travel book on the Orkney at Shetland Islands, glanced over the "now desperately on sale for a few bucks" rack, and moved on to the New Arrivals stand. A potential birthday gift for my son was there, and turns out to be even more engagingly written than I expected. I had better order it and read it soon - that is accepted practice on all book-gifts in our family.
Right next to it was Mike Jones's I Had To Say Something, about how he brought Ted Haggard down. "I had to say something..." Perhaps yes, but did you have to write a book? It immediately calls your motives into question, motives which I had been heretofore neutral about. I mean nescient about.
Also on the table is Drew Westen's The Political Brain, the book that explains how Democrats have been losing elections because they have been appealing to people's thinking, while Republicans have been winning by appealing to their hearts. Westen's solution is that Democrats much specifically craft their message to have emotional appeal, using the best recent scientific discoveries of emotional manipulation. Gee, that'll be a change.
The Democrats primary campaign tactic for the last 20 years has been appeal to various prejudices. Not that Republicans stand nobly above it all on that score, but such tactics have been far less prominent. I should specify that I am talking about national politics here. I don't have any sense of who's worse at the local level. Even this book trades on the same stereotype "we think; you're mind-numbed robots."
So that's irritating, but no worse than 100 other things I see every week. The plan to intentionally slough off intellectual appeals in order to manipulate voters emotionally, though - that troubles me. I confess I don't know where to draw clear lines on this. Westen is proposing to calculate what politicians and their advisors have always done intuitively. The science of moving public opinion has real research behind it, and I imagine there are Republicans, Greens, and Libertarians all doing something similar. Yet there is some line that has been crossed here, some sort of moral downshift. Troubling.