We have two political parties in the United States: Republicans and Democrats.
One of the core (or at least stereotypical) differences between the two is that Republicans think while Democrats feel. You can always count on Republicans to be practical, regardless of what people think, while Democrats will usually act on emotion.
It’s why one of Reagan’s oft-remembered statements is “trust, but verify,” while Clinton’s is “I feel your pain.” (or, “I did not have sex with that woman,” but that’s really relevant to this post…)
As a republic, we’ve largely chosen sides based on these two approaches. It’s why when Democrats are out in the streets protesting this or that and screaming hysterically, conservatives keep quiet and go to work. Protesting feels good and feels like you’re making a difference. Going to work pays the bills and keeps one out of trouble.
So, which is better? Logic or emotion. The obvious answer is that it’s both. A combination of the two allows one to empathize and have compassion for the plight of others while making logical decisions and taking rational actions that will address those plights.
But if you had to choose one, which would you choose? Both have their upsides, and both have their downsides.
To be ruled by emotion works because it allows you to react to life’s highs and lows and experience every ounce of feeling that goes with each. If you’re overly emotional, when something amazing happens to you or a friend, you feel it and ride that high. You’re all in on the resulting celebrations, and you’re living in the moment.
Likewise, when something horrible befalls you or a loved one, you can empathize with them and feel what they’re going through. If you’re a politician, even better because your constituents know that you are paying attention to their challenges and the horrible things that happen to them. It gives them reason to believe you’re highly motivated to do something about it.
The problem is, when you’re guided by emotion, and it’s not balanced with the required logic, you can thrash and flail, make noise and react, but you’re often not equipped with the mental skillset required to maintain perspective or solve the problem.
This is why so many Democrats react to unique stories of personal tragedy as if they’re widespread, happening to everyone, and must be addressed immediately.
If one black person isn’t accepted to a given college, then it must be racist, and furthermore, it must be that racism that keeps all blacks who don’t get accepted to the colleges of their choice must be the victims of racism.
On the flip side, logic is great for identifying and solving real problems. However, those who apply logic without much emotion tend to look like they don’t care at all. And when confronted by overly emotional people with real or perceived problems, logical people tend to look insensitive.
Logical people generally do a great job of identifying and prioritizing problems precisely because they take the human element out of things and work on solving those problems. People who apply logic understand that things that happen to people are usually extremely dynamic involving many factors.
Take the same black college applicant who doesn’t get accepted. An emotional person may determine, without evidence, that it’s racism and organize protests against the school. This is good because it raises awareness of issues that probably require or deserve attention.
At the same time, a more logical person would recognize that what happened to that person most likely was the result of many factors, including: who else applied and was accepted, the qualifying credentials of those people, the academic and volunteer record of the applicant, the quality of the application itself, who was doing the application reviewing, and countless other nameless, unknown factors.
I guess that’s one of the great things about our system. When we have Republicans and Democrats in the system together, we get a mix of both sides, and each sides are exposed to the other.
Unfortunately, the balance is leaning toward emotion. The hatred for Trump has far surpassed a healthy or reasonable amount, and the Democrat Party’s embrace of socialism and constructs like the “1619 project,” which relies on the idea that we’re a racist nation, has truly swung the pendulum. As a result, the amount of hatred each side has for the other is ratcheted up to highly unhealthy levels.
If we can ever get back to the days in which we feel united, as Americans, by our love for freedom and liberty, than our mix of logic and emotion will keep us grounded and heading in a healthy direction.
Unfortunately, I fear that the real divide may be at the foundational level of governing ideology. If that’s the case, the emotions are only going to run higher, and the may not be enough to save us.