Shortly after I graduated from the LAPD Academy in 1981, my partner and I responded to a nearby stolen car call. As we arrived, the suspect bolted and I suddenly found myself chasing after him on foot.
My emotions are still easy to recall: Amazement that a wanted felon was within my grasp, shock that he refused to obey my order to stop, and mounting anger that someone would disregard my authority. As my lungs began to burn, I wanted to take my anger out on him in a way that would make him think twice before running from a cop again.
Fortunately for me, another rookie helped me tackle the suspect and we quickly handcuffed him without injury. Because we were near the offices of the Daily News, a press photographer snapped this photo of my first arrest. I'm the tall newbee, back turned, still gripping the unhappy suspect.
Although emotions are one of humanity’s most critical survival mechanisms, without careful consideration, they remain one of humanity’s greatest liabilities. Whether you’re a police officer, pilot, motorist, investor, or president, emotions can cloud our better judgment and irrevocably alter the lives of others.
This goes for voters too. As India’s Gurcharan Das described:
When a politician promises rice for two rupees a kilo (12 cents a pound) even though it costs five rupees in the market, he wins the election. N.T. Rama Rao did precisely that in 1994 and won the Andhra election, became the chief minister, and nearly bankrupted the state treasury… When Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal gave away free electricity and water to farmers… he had lived up to his electoral promise, but twelve months later the state’s fragile finances were destroyed and there was no money to pay salaries to civil servants… Investors were ready and waiting to come in, but when this largesse was announced, they turned shy. Competitive politics had again failed us, and it taught us that the demand for publicly provided goods and services is insatiable in a democracy.Thomas Sowell describes this as stage-one thinking, explaining that politics and economics are not matters of opinion but “require thinking beyond the immediate consequences of decisions to their long-term effects. Because so few politicians look beyond the next election, it is all the more important that voters look ahead.”
No dispassionate person can read or hear Adolph Hitler’s speeches without appreciating his talent for tapping into the emotional drives of his audience:
The misery of our people is horrible to behold! Millions of the industrial proletariat are unemployed and starving; the whole of the middle class and the small artisans have been impoverished. When this collapse finally reaches the German peasants, we will be faced with an immeasurable disaster. For then not only shall a nation collapse, but a two-thousand-year-old inheritance – some of the loftiest products of human culture and civilization…Hitler’s consolidation of power did not require the support of every voter, but only enough emotionally-charged followers to buy into his dream for hope and change. This stage-one thinking led enough adoring disciples to support his ambitious plans. Hitler was not born a monster but, as an artist, he knew how to tap into the emotional needs of his audience, which helped him consolidate enough power to become a monster.
Like India’s illiterate masses, millions of Americans have been influenced by the stage-one teachers who have controlled K-12 and academic institutions since the 1960s. Despite the absence of personal achievement and lingering questions about his citizenship, Barack Obama sweet-talked enough voters to send more money than a televangelist. His undeserved popularity remains steady.
In the book Fifty Major Political Thinkers, Adams & Dyson write that fascist ideas and methods “tend to be intellectually crude; indeed, fascists despise intellectuals and sophisticated theory. Instead, they stress instinct, emotion, and will above all action. There is, therefore, a strong irrational element in fascism: emotion and will are the basis for action, rather than reason…”
Barack Obama’s disastrous economic and national security decisions notwithstanding, I was shocked yesterday when, as an "officer of the court" and first guardian of the US Constitution, Obama said this about America’s next Supreme Court justice:
"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation… I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."Unfortunately, Obama never learned that it was an emotionally-driven Supreme Court that subordinated the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments after Republicans forced Democrats to free their slaves. Those abstract legal theories and footnotes didn’t stop the Supreme Court’s Democrat sympathizers from passing Plessy v. Ferguson, a law that empathized with the daily realities of people’s lives and resulted in another 60 years of hate and discrimination against black Americans. And when the Supreme Court’s majority passed Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), President Eisenhower (a Republican) ordered his dispassionate troops to protect black students from emotionally-charged threats.
As the US Constitution’s sworn defender, President Obama is required leave legislation to America’s elected legislators and nominate judges based upon their willingness to dispassionately interpret the US Constitution as it applies to enacted legislation. Any arbitrary, capricious, or emotional distortion of that document is a direct attack on the United States that deserves America’s contempt.