Progressives have been a bunch of well-intentioned but misguided wuss-bags. Stuck in the Enlightenment version of how our minds work, we’ve missed the brain science boat conservatives jumped onto forty years ago.
Until I read George Lakoff’s The Political Mind and now as I’m finishing Drew Westen’s The Political Brain I was misguided, too. I thought it best to stay “above” the low-brow games the right wing played, appealing to people’s fears and encouraging misinformation. Turns out they’re just ahead of the game in understanding how our brains work.
Take Cathy*, the 24 year old administrative assistant in a small southern town. Avidly against abortion, a faithful church-goer, she’s just finished college and moved into her own place with a friend. The small two bedroom apartment is above a local dive bar, but the girls don’t mind. It’s exciting and makes it feel a bit like they’ve move to the big city without having to leave the comfort of home.
On her way home from work one evening, Cathy stops at the supermarket to get some eggs and cereal. As she leaves, crosses the street, and walks toward her new home, she doesn’t notice the man in the dark hooded sweatshirt following her. She gets to her door, opens it with her key (you can’t be too careful, even in small town America), and starts up the stairs. The stranger catches the door before it closes, slams Cathy onto the stairs, and rapes her. A month later, Cathy finds she is pregnant. She was going to wait until she was married before having sex. The rape has sent her into a tailspin over the last few weeks and now, finding she is pregnant, she feels lost. She considers killing herself, but knows that is a sin. Everyone she knows is against abortion. No one would understand. But even the thought of carrying this man’s baby makes her sick to her stomach. She cries herself to sleep for days.
The Republicans with their “abortion is always wrong” position believe Cathy must carry this child to term. They believe the rapist’s right to impregnate Cathy and control her life is more important than her right to end the pregnancy.
I tweeted about this today (supporting the Republican platform means you support rapists) and got a satisfactory response. I was called stupid, told I should think before I speak, and other pathetic attempts at insults. According to the Republican platform, a woman’s right to have an abortion is less important than a rapist’s right to force her to bear his child.
This is just one of many posts I expect I’ll be making about ditching old Enlightenment ideas of how our minds work (rational reasoning) in favor of the real processes with which we make decisions (emotions, metaphors, framing, neural networks). Progressives are going to keep losing, big time, and the Sarah Palins of the world are going to keep boggling our minds and blowing us out of the water if we don’t learn these lessons fast.
*The Cathy story is entirely fictional, but to be effective progressives need to tell stories illustrating their values and principles.