The Mental Factor of Politics: How One Mindset Can Change Thousands

October 9, 2008

As a bit of an off-topic post: Today I heard something that I had heard in different contexts all my life, but never really brought out in a political light. In a Yom Kippur sermon, a rabbi pointed out to me something the all of us have (or are going to learn) the hard way — it is the human instinct to always be right. 

I know that we have all heard this before, but bare with me. The speech was mostly about the science of insisting on being correct to reduce sadness and stress, but as a political junkie rather than a health enthusiast, one point of the sermon clung on to me. 

The Rabbi pointed out this (not a direct quote):

This human knack is also translated in many ways than one….into politics. If you remember the famous Nixon/Kennedy debate, and visited a predominately Nixon-favoring apartment, the people living there would say: “look at this whooping we are giving Kennedy!” But if you went to a Kennedy supporting apartment, they would most likely say the opposite: “Look at this pounding we are handing Nixon!”

And although this would certainly not be rare in the present as well, the rabbi’s point was brought out completely in his last quote:

But the interesting thing here was is if you were in the far-right apartment building and Nixon [in the debate] stared straight at the camera and said, “I am a crook. I am not nearly qualified enough to become president compared to my opponent — and frankly, this was a stupid idea to run in the first place.” then the Nixon supporters in the apartment would most definitely roar in approval, saying: “Now there is an honest man fit for the job as commander and chief.”

 What the rabbi was getting at in my opinion was the fact  that all over the political spectrum there are people who  very intensely support their candidate.

 And although this is certainly not bad, (I wrote a while back  on this) some of these people are (this is just my opinion)  fixated on destroying the other candidate via the internet  and media. And this, in my opinion, can really derail them  as voters, and more importantly Americans.

 To support a candidate in this day and age is to support  someone that you truly believe can make an America that you want, not a congressman, senator, or frankly — another candidate’s America. But when a person rises above a certain passion for a candidate, many will instead turn to attacking the opposing party’s candidate.

And in doing this the really lose touch of their pick for president and become engrossed in a negative mindset of convincing other people that a candidate is not fit as president.

No, I am not having some sort of crisis or am trying out to be a guru, but my main point here is that these people, instead of using this incredible amount of energy on their candidate, choose to use it to attempt to persuade others into something that is truly their own choice.

If you want to get very deep into the subject, this can be traced to many other things involving religion, racism, and cults, but my meaning here is that equally, on both sides of the political spectrum, there is a very radical but still functional mental factor that continues to persuade large numbers of voters.

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16 Responses to “The Mental Factor of Politics: How One Mindset Can Change Thousands”


  1. Political fanaticism is one of the things that keeps me from getting into too many conversations about politics. I think the two-party system makes it easier for people to have destructive fanatical views because there’s primarily the two candidates- one you support and one you don’t. The only obstacle in the way of your candidate is the other and they are the enemy.

  2. pacer521 Says:

    Involuntaryfury,

    You make a great point. Living in a very young and mostly liberal place, I try to stay away from talking politics with people who are extremely left — I’d rather discuss the subject in a surrounding without a certain bias toward (in my case) towards Obama.

    The two party-system is my certainly the culprit of my point, you are right. But even when Hillary was still in the race, it was a gunfight until the convention, and people choose very harsh sides, even through the fact that both candidates, though their policies, were very similar compared to the republicans.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Kevin Robles Says:

    I know a lot of people like the rabbi said. They can’t see things that are right in their face. I ultimately think your political views corralate with your way of thinking and decision makings. For example, if your someone, and this is just my opinion, that does things based more on instinct or “gut” feeling, your more likely to be a conservative leaning person. Now, if you are some one that prefers to think things throughly and decides things not on emotions but on obesrvations and reasoning, you are more likely to be liberally leaning. Now, I’m not saying everyone is like that, but that is my main observation throughout.


  4. Yeah, it’s certainly not exclusive to Democrat vs Republican views. It’s pretty much endemic to any situation where there are two easily identifiable adversarial positions.

  5. rhapsodyinbooks Says:

    I think the problem lies much deeper. Look at the fury and irrationality at Republican rallies – yelling “terrorist” “kill him!” and so on. What it reminds me of most is the ease with which Hitler was able to channel economic fear and frustration in the 1930′s. All it takes is the identification of an “other.” This “other” is used as a foil to garner support for a bid for power. In our present case, we have the bifurcation between the regular Joe Six-packs and the educated elite (the latter bizarrely being perceived as anathema). For books on how mass behavior can transmute people into furious unthinking crowds, I would recommend any book by George Mosse, Hannah Arendt, or “In Pursuit of the Millenium” by Norman Cohn.

  6. Kevin Robles Says:

    I would agree rhapsodyinbook, there is a lot of fury and irrationality in the Republican rallies. The fault for that falls on both McCain and Palin. When someone yelled terrorist, all McCain did was smirk and pause. That is just not right.

  7. pacer521 Says:

    both Kevin Robles comments,

    I agree that it isn’t right to call out terrorist and then smirk about it, but I think that people’s instincts can be different. Great blog, and it looks like your writing a heck of a lot of posts — great!

  8. pacer521 Says:

    involuntaryfury,

    Yeah — even some ralph nater fans meet my post. Thanks for the comment.

  9. 1superdave Says:

    seems you atracked some of those folks the good rabbi was talking about. The commenters here have made your point very well. Least it doesn’t have the same tone as the daily kos. Answer me this please; “is there good and evil”?

  10. Kevin Robles Says:

    Thanks Pacer521, I’ve added some features like FeedBurner, Google Analytics, etc to make my blog a bit better. And yeah, I’m trying to write posts frequently. I saw on TV McCain had to defend Sen. Obama from his own crowd. To tell you the truth, I had lot my respect for Sen. McCain, but after seeing him do this, he at least has my respect now. He was brave enough to stand against his own supporters yelling Obama terrorist, or Arab.

  11. pacer521 Says:

    rhapsodyinbooks,

    Great comment — those books sound really cool! Also thanks for all of your involvement with my blog, its really made a difference. Keep reading!

  12. pacer521 Says:

    1superdave,

    thanks for the comment — but I don’t really know what you are saying… I am not trying to attack republican or democratic supporters of either candidate — but just here to point out some people who try to influence other’s political point of view.

  13. Kevin Robles Says:

    LOL, I kind of din’t get what he was talking about too. Please post again so we can get your point 1superdave

  14. 1superdave Says:

    I said attract. Their comments fit the profile you described. I miss-spelled it,

  15. 1superdave Says:

    It has been said that if a person is younger than twenty-five and is not a democrat, they don’t have a heart, but if one is over fourty and not a republican they don’t have a brain!

  16. thegarrulousfiend Says:

    Ya know you are quite right, we as Americans do always want to be right. Well to be quite honest, we as humans always want to be right. Anytime we make an analysis of our candidate’s performance we have a strong desire to see them as the victor. It’s very easy to perceive comments differently or to completely ignore the untruths our candidates speak, if it means we can personally consider it a victory for our guy (or gal). I tried in my last debate analysis (and sometimes I perhaps have tried too hard) to be independent, to not accept Obama as the victor simply because I am his supporter. I think I did a relatively good job, although it may very well come off as forced. Perhaps one day I’ll master the art of independent analysis but I doubt it. I think there are few, if any, people in the world capable of overcoming their natural human instincts.


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