From Bobby Jindal and Alex Costellanos at The WSJ, There’s More to Politics than Policy:
Liberals have long contended that conservatives use emotional appeals to manipulate working-class voters into voting against their own economic interests. These appeals, supposedly grounded in patriotic, faith-based or racist rhetoric, are held to fool voters into supporting Republicans who do the bidding of the rich. How else can Democrats explain the millions of multiethnic, working-class voters who refuse to vote for their candidates and won’t support tax increases on the wealthy, redistribution programs and entitlement expansion?
This patronizing attitude both ignores the downsides of liberal policies and dismisses emotions and faith as inferior alternatives to reason. In the Western world, we worship in the church of reason. We remain the progeny of the Enlightenment. Emotions persist, however, because they help us handle the choices too complex and important for reason alone.
We don’t make the big decisions in our lives with a calculator: whom we love, whom we marry, the children we bring into the world, the groups to which we are loyal, the causes for which we fight and die. We make those commitments not only with our heads, but also with our hearts. A young soldier will jump on a grenade and extinguish his own life to save his buddies. It isn’t a rational act. It is a noble act of the spirit and heart, the kind of sacrifice that is essential to the success of the larger society.
I lament the subversion of ideas and policy to the passions of the electorate, but it is hard to escape that reality. The more distant we get from our founding principles, both chronologically and intellectually, the more divisive we become. When you do not know what you believe everything becomes an argument. Without the unity of commonly held ideas we descend into the combat zone of identity politics.
As long as we focus on issues rather than the means of resolving our differences we will be at each other’s throat. A common or general will is an illusion and is used more to crush opposition than to unite a people. A respect for our mediating institutions. the values and the means to adjudicate our differences, is critical.