Battle for Hearts (not Minds)
On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning (January 23, 2019) the hosts (Joe Kernan, Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin) interviewed Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, America's biggest bank. The setting was a snowy outdoor studio in Davos, Switzerland where all the corporate and government big wigs have directed their private jets for a big conflab.
The mood in Davos is definitely downbeat this year with talk of slowing global growth, a looming recession in the US, Brexit, a government shutdown and a host of other problems. Dimon was a bit more upbeat thinking that the shutdown, while shaving a few tenths off GDP growth, would not trigger a recession. But Dimon lamented that the US “can do better as a nation,” instead of “just yelling and screaming about other people.” Asked where he stood on the current political impasse in the US, Dimon (who in a 2012 interview had said he was a Democrat but only “barely”) said, “My heart is Democratic but my brain is kind of Republican.”
And that is just the point. Democrats feel issues with their hearts and the Republicans traditionally think about issues with their brains. This has been confirmed by Jonathan Haidt (the Righteous Mind, 2012) and other psychologists. So it is only natural that Democrats and Republicans see issues differently. But seeing things differently is different than the bitter impasse that our political system is being subjected to.
This is due to the fact that President Trump, although a nominal Republican, does not appeal to the public’s mind but to their hearts. The same hearts that Democrats are trying to reach. I do not believe that President Trump understands why some people oppose his proposed policy initiatives. Similar to the Democrats he believes that people who oppose him are bad people that fully deserve the epithets he tweets at them. And the Democrats believe that President Trump and anyone who supports him to be bad, evil people because if you believe that you are a good person trying to do good things, whoever opposes you, must be evil.
The current impasse is not a duel between heart and brain. It is a fight to the finish between two bitter sour hearts, the populist Trump and his administration versus the populist progressive left of the Democratic party. Like spurned lovers they want the other side to feel the pain. The American people (and especially the laid off government workers) are caught between these two sides. But although each side appeals to the other to think of the poor people suffering because of the shutdown, neither side really cares. The plight of these poor people is insignificant in the great bitter battle of the heart.
And even when the shutdown is resolved (because it has to be resolved) the fight will continue. The Democratic House of Representatives will pass bill after bill repudiating American Principles and attempting to install Marxist socialist principles instead. The Republican controlled Senate will also pass many bills that will go nowhere. The impeachment of President Trump will sail through the House only to have the conviction founder on the rocks of the Senate (unless President Trump is caught inflagrante delicto like former President Nixon – which appears unlikely given the plodding pace of the Mueller investigation).
But in human beings, the head and the heart must work together. Emotions and reason both play an important part in decision making. Policies made on pure emotion are unlikely to be successful. But policies based on reason that do not take into account the impact it has on people may be considered cruel. Unfettered capitalism leads to highly unequal incomes. But unrewarded work is also unmotivated resulting in shoddy products or poor service.
For too many years (decades actually) the yearning of Democrats to have government provide more and more welfare benefits combined with the Republicans fetish for tax cuts have resulted, not in compromise, but with both policies implemented in parallel financed by government debt that will soon become unsustainable.
We need a functioning head and a functioning heart that can work together but this is unlikely while President Trump and the progressive left control the government’s agenda. The upcoming election bodes ill for the American people with the moderate Republicans cowering in fear of President Trump’s angry base and a plethora of Democratic candidates representing every identity imaginable (resulting in an ultimate candidate with the most highly motivated (i.e.; angry) base).
Imagine what we could do if we (like Jamie Dimon) can get our hearts and minds to work together.
And while we’re at it:
Is there anybody out there in Republicanland that could mount a creditable campaign to deny the 2020 presidential nomination to Donald Trump? Most of the other candidates from the last presidential campaign have faded into the woodwork. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio seemed to have been totally cowed by President Trump. Lindsey Graham sometimes says the right thing but appears to have made peace with working with, rather than against, the president. The others have faded from the political scene although Bobby Jindal still writes an occasional op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Only John Kasich seems to be mumbling about the possibility of mounting a campaign for the Republican candidacy. But his 2016 run at the nomination never really seemed to catch fire and there doesn’t seem to be a rising wave of support for a new run. Some people thought Mitt Romney might be a possibility. That is until he wrote an unfortunate op-ed article in the Washington Post slamming President Trump before he had even taken his newly won (with Trump support) Senate seat.
Whoever that potential candidate might be, he or she must be ready for a barrage or verbal and twitter abuse from President Trump as well as the possibility of physical danger from a deranged Trump supporter. And the candidate will also be attacked by the Democrats because they would much rather run against President Trump (because they think everyone hates the president as much as they do – they might be surprised – again).
But there is room out there. 42% of the population describe themselves as independent, more than either party. And even some Republicans and Democrats may balk at some of the extreme choices they may given by these supposedly mainstream parties.
Whoever that person may be, he or she should be getting started soon. The Democrats are already starting and President Trump never stopped.