Vail Valley Voices: Head vs. heart in politics
Ryan Summerlin January 16, 2013
There’s a great quote from an unlikely source, Rob Lowe. In a recent interview, Lowe explained why he had become more conservative as he has gotten older. In discussing the differences between the parties, he concluded that Democrats are big on empathy and Republicans are big on logic.
Considering the best and brightest from both sides of the aisle, all with an equal sense of patriotic duty, we are left to wonder how they can create such opposing solutions to the same problem? Each looks at the other side and thinks, “What an idiot.” And we look at them collectively, thinking the same.
Perhaps the idea of empathy vs. logic has merit.
Democrats being big on empathy is evidenced by the increase of government programs in nearly every area of our lives. Dems look at it as helping those in need who might perish without it.
To a certain degree, they are correct. Everyone at some point in their lives needs someone, and family is not always available or in a position to help. Thus government should have an available option, right? No one wants to see people suffer, and Dems are truly sensitive to this situation.
Republicans are equally sensitive, but they view help differently because they consider government entitlement programs as short-term solutions to long-term issues.
They believe strongly in the :don’t give a fish; teach them how to fish” concept, so that the recipient will never again be hungry. Anything less is demeaning to the recipient and negatively impacts the individual, their family’s future, and the American economy.
This logic is in line with our traditional American spirit that believes we can accomplish anything – “don’t hold me back.” Thus, logic says that even though we want to help everyone in need, we also need to determine what we can afford to do. Otherwise we may make the situation ultimately worse for both the receiver, who may remain dependent, and the giver, who may run out of money to help now and in the future.
As an example: We are heartbroken to see a homeless family, yet we don’t bring every homeless person home to live with us. Why? Don’t we feel empathy? Don’t they need help? Don’t we have room in our house? Don’t we have food on our table? Why don’t we solve the homeless situation by moving them all in with us?
Perhaps it is because logic tells us that we cannot realistically support every homeless person we see, and in attempting to do so, we may impact our own ability to help anyone in the future by spending every dime we have and borrowing the rest until we, too, are homeless.
Instead, it makes more sense to give what we can and attempt to create an environment that might help remedy the current situation while potentially eliminating this hardship for others in the future.
Yet, this may mean that some people will currently remain homeless even though you aren’t. Does that mean you are heartless, selfish or perhaps not giving enough of your “fair share”?
This is the real empathy versus logic argument. Our heart says help. Our brain says do it correctly.
Democrats say “entitlements.” Republicans say “fiscal restraint.”
This is a micro example of the “fiscal cliff” and similar debates. The mind-heart conflict continues on a massive scale, as Democrats and Republicans continue to face off on how to best serve our nation’s needs while providing for a prosperous future.
How do we accomplish this without substantially limiting future growth and our national economic security?
It’s the same as the challenge of how we help the homeless without becoming homeless ourselves.
Are we so focused on short-term solutions that we are oblivious to the long-term consequences?
Will doing so create the same fate as is being experienced across Europe?
Would a reduction of some entitlements be better than ultimately having to eliminate all of them in the future due to a collapse of our economic currency?
Both perspectives are valid, as we all continually battle the heart versus head, or empathy versus logic conflict in our everyday lives.
While both political sides exhibit empathy and logic, the Democrats market that empathy, as in they are the ones who feel your pain and actually take it to a new level, an art form of visuals and fear messaging that makes them the empathetic champs.
They are the Mother Theresa of the political scene, making Republicans the antithesis.
So, while there are logical arguments within the Democrats’ platform, they promote the empathy card as the emotional hook to prompt voter response.
Republicans look beyond the immediate situation to seek a cause and effect for each condition. Their focus is on creating solutions that will stand the test of time, which is why they frequently make historic references, which some consider to be living in the past, or old-fashioned.
While they fully understand that some situations require an immediate response, they become concerned about the future implications of those short-term solutions.
What has made this county great is its entrepreneurial spirit, the ability of anyone (not necessarily everyone) to have the opportunity to create for themselves their own American Dream, and there is great concern when policies are put in place that make it more difficult to achieve that dream simply to satisfy a short-term concern.
They would rather inspire greatness than encourage dependency.
This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue, it is an American issue. We are the most generous nation on earth. In tragedy, we give more than all others combined.
What will we be able to give when the well runs dry?
Jacqueline Cartier, who has more than 25 years of political communications experience and is the president and CEO of Winning Images, recently moved back to Eagle-Vail from Washington, D.C. She can be reached by email at WinningImages.Cartier@gmail.com or by phone at 202-271-4165. Visit her website at www.winningimagesbycartier.com.