In politics, when reason and emotions collide, emotion invariably wins. In this landmark book, scientist and psychologist Drew Westen shows how electorates vote not with their heads but with their hearts, and how the marketplace that matters most is the marketplace of emotion - filled with values, images, analogies, moral sentiments, and moving oratory.
The first serious investigation into how emotions affect voter behavior, The Political Brain reveals how the political landscape would change if candidates began with a 21st-century understanding of how the mind and brain really work.
©2007 Drew Westen; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Drew Westen is a must read....we will win the Presidency if our candidate reads and acts on this book." (Howard Dean)
"This is the most interesting, informative book on politics I've read in many years...whether you're an interested voter or a candidate for public office, you have to read this book." (Bill Clinton)
"In the last several months, [Westen] has gone from a politically inclined nobody to a hot ticket." (Los Angeles Times)
Special thanks to Sasha, Stacy and Stef for sharing the Audible experience with me and being the best of company during my recovery.
The author is an experienced political writer and advisor; progressive in his politics who is on the faculty at Emory University. An expert in psychology Westen states that contrary to what many supposed campaign experts believe; political decisions are based not on intellect, but on emotion. As a progressive he points out examples that back up this hypotheses.
Specifically he uses the Bush II campaigns against Gore and Kerry. The debate in which Bush challenged Gore's integrity and Gore failed to respond is the example he used and posited a response that Gore could and should have made. Specifically that a man who'd spent three decades in the liqueur cabinet and had to be investigated by his own father's administration in a fraud case.
In Kerry's case it was not surprisingly about the swiftboating of the democratic candidate by Karl Rove and the Bush campaign. The gist of the return attack being that draft dodging frat boys like Bush, Cheney and Rove shouldn't try that tactic with someone who actually fought for their country; unlike them.
There are separate chapters about gay rights, abortion, the separation of church and state, and right wing political beliefs being referred to as religion. He upbraids his progressive brethren about turning over to religion to the Republican party and ceding faith to the right.
The book is too long and much of the first 3 or 4 chapters is theoretical and reads more like a textbook. Still it's good information, particularly if you share his politics. The response's of the democratic candidates as done by Westen made me wish he had been the campaign manager for either of the democratic candidates. A good 4 star listen.
Contrary to its subtitle, The Political Brain offers scant examination of the psychology of political thought, and it is anything but objective or scientific. Nor is it, as suggested by the euphoric reviews of Bill Clinton and Howard Dean, a masterpiece of political science, the author misidentifies Minority House Leader John Boehner as a Senator. The book, nonetheless, is made worthwhile by its profound, if unintentional, insights into the workings of the U.S political system.
Westen clearly intends his book as a strategy guide for Democratic candidates. The problem, he explains, is that Republican, while incompetent in every other respect, have masterful political strategists who understand, unlike the Democrats, that voters cannot comprehend rational appeals and must therefore be pandered to on an emotional level.
The party of Old Hickory, Westen counsels, needs to follow the party of Lincoln in abandoning any pretense to rational, issue based campaigns. Instead, they must pander to the emotions of voters, who unlike elites such as Westen, are either too dumb or too impulsive to make informed decisions. The children's Story The Little Engine that Could, not well thought out and publicized policies, he advises, is an ideal framework for speaking to voters.
Westen's skills as a propagandist and insights into the minds' of voters are debatable. The unintentional insights his book offers into the cynical and self-justifying world of the partisan ideologues who choreograph American political culture are not. The cynical counsel of an esteemed, albeit publicly unknown, partisan apparatchik reveals more about American politics than any textbook or criticism from even the most astute observer could. This book is a must read, though not for the reasons the author intended.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This book had a few interesting tidbits, but can be summed up as “Emotions persuade more effectively than ideas. Republican politicians have used strong emotional messages while Democrats have been using Ideas.” Well, sure. When it got to making suggestions of what “liberals” could do to communicate using emotional language the book seemed to break down. I found the author misguided. One example – the author contends that on the issue of gun control liberals must point out that owning guns for protection against unjust government is equivalent to owning guns to kill police and soldiers. This argument misses the point (and would not work). History is clear that an armed population discourages unjust government, and in the very worst case, the guns of a free people should be turned against unjust police or soldiers. The author does not really explain what liberals should do, other than to be like Bill Clinton – easier said than done.
I'm shocked by the good reviews here. Probably a lot of the 1-2 starers are Conservatives angry to be called stupid. Well, let me be clear: I'm a liberal, this is a crappy book.
The this-is-why-the-other-side-is-so-crazy genre is incredibly overpopulated. I'm not trying to draw a false equivalence. This is not Ann Coulter screaming about how liberals support medicare because their daddies wouldn't spank them, but it is basically Drew Westen's armchair psychology. A lot of it is him imagining "if only Al Gore had said this", and indulging that fantasy way too long. For the record, this book came out before the 2008 election, and Westen puts his support behind John Edwards. So we know how that turned out...
Slightly better is the more recent book "The Republican Brain". That book at least has the advantage of being grounded somewhat in actual research. But in general, this whole genre is widely disappointing.
Like "What Happened to Kansas" and "Don't Think of an Elephant," this book examines why the Republican party has been so successful in its messaging and why Democrats have not. How and why people vote against their economic interest is fascinating - if you are a political junkie. Warning, although the book skewers Democrats for their ability to communicate with voters, it is written from someone with a leftist bent.
Best book to understand why facts seem to not matter in our politics. Illustrates how bad Kerry and Gore ran their campaigns. The book was written before Obama won, and we can see that Obama didn't make these mistakes and he is now president.
Liberals have to abandon their facts only approach, and bring in an all-of-the-above strategy including emotion... if not mostly emotion.
Fishers and Hunters should be on the dems environmental side, and yet the dems don't play this to them, ceding to NRA.
Example - put some emotion to dems pro-choice argument.
Pro life people support making a girl carry a baby even if she was raped by her father.
After listening through 2 hours of emotional clap-trap. I decided that if I wanted to hear an excessively verbose emotional diatribe I would tune on my radio to Michael Savage. I was very disappointed with this selection, not enough science but way too much partisan political whinning. I wasted my credit with this one. Total garbage.
Well, someone finally tells me why "W" managed to get elected. The theory is that Republicans have been connecting emotionally with the electorate and the Democrats have been talking issues. Emotions rule. Makes sense to me. Since I listened to this book, I've been watching the primary campaigns--looking for strategies mentioned in the book. If you are interested in politics and the coming campaigns, you ought to buy this book.
It's not overly technical and the bulk of the material is sufficiently grounded in examples, interpretations and applications of concepts that listening to it again would be an interesting refresher.
I'd compare it to The Political Mind. Both are essentially a confluence of cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience in view of explaining and informing political thought. They both go to improving individuals literacy for what's up with regards to both politicians and the other side, whichever that may be.
I haven't heard Anthony Head's other performances, but he did great. I'd comment, however, that he did pronounce Stephen Colbert's last name as Kholberg and amygdala as aw-mig-daw-la. Otherwise, he was perfectly listenable-to for the tracks' entire 16+ hour run.
I'd give it a subtitle of,
The book occasionally gets a little heavy on the author's personal recommendations in such a way as to give impression that he's shooting for consultancy work, but he keep these parts grounded, practical and wholly explanatory so they're still useful.
Discussing the Bush-Gore debates
Very good analysis of the need for candidates to connect with voters on an emotional level and what happens when they try to be
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