The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation

The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation - Drew Westen The book lays out the universal way we see and develop our beliefs concerning the world in the realm of politics. The first third of the book was masterful when the author stuck to the science (mostly neurosciences) that sway us in the realm of politics. He makes his points and does a good job at bringing home the importance of neurosciences in the realm of marketing and politics. We often are not aware of the networks that are activated or are unaware of our emotional states that we use unconsciously in our decision making processes. The author frames his story ('framing' is a concept he relies on in his story telling) around Darwin, Skinner and Freud. We are born as humans in a certain way (Darwin), our environment shapes our behavior (Skinner), and there is an unconscious component to being human (Freud). Feelings are how we process most of our information (unfortunately for me, I am a mathematician and I process most of my world differently).

The author should have stopped the book after the first third. He would have had a brilliant book. He teaches the reader of the value of narratives and of the networks (or using William Van Orman Quine's word 'web' when he's identifying one of his 'values' of science) we use in understanding what we believe is reality.

I have the advantage of hindsight. He's writing around 2007 and a lot of things have happened that really color my attitude against the author's approach. For example, his compromised approach on Gay Marriage being re-branded as 'civil unions' is not what happened (thankfully). That would have been the wrong approach. As Hegel said regarding philosophy, "any shoe clerk thinks he understands philosophy", and just as readily I can say 'everybody thinks they are an expert at politics'.

The election of a president who makes absurd statements such as "Climate change is a Chinese Hoax", or "we should not only kill the terrorist but the terrorist's family", or "waterboarding is not torture and we should do even more" shows that even someone who makes psychotic sounding statements (each one of those three statements strike me as coming from a psychotic with either no empathy or a pathological understanding of reality) can sway Americans who want to be swayed.

It sucks being a Democrat and I'm holding out for Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown in 2020 who don't need to read a book like this one because they already know how to speak from the heart and should be able to beat a person who speaks like a psychotic.