Politics: Does emotion trump reason?

by Judy Ferro

Years ago a Colorado candidate accused his opponent, an incumbent legislator, of using his cerebellum in the legislature. Moreover, he claimed the man was known to have practiced interdigitalism right in the Statehouse.

That’s right. The challenger claimed his opponent used his brain and shook hands. It ranked up there with the “nobody for president” campaign as a humorous distraction from everyday politics; one designed to gain name recognition for the challenger. The stage was set for the incumbent to call a press conference defending the value of interdigitalizing.

The accused didn’t, however. He got mad. He claimed his challenger was using dishonest tactics and purposely misleading voters.

And he lost.

Pundits claimed it was because his anger told voters he figured they were stupid.

I feel the 30 Idaho legislators who announced that Planned Parenthood would be on the agenda in 2016 are sending the same message. So what if the State makes no direct payments to Planned Parenthood? So what if Federal guidelines already severely limit Medicaid payments for abortion? So what if a court has already struck down another state’s attempt to bar Medicaid recipients from using Planned Parenthood?

There is nothing for the Idaho legislature to change. Yet, these “leaders” will spend weeks of legislative time—and loads of taxpayer money—attacking this effigy because 2016 is an election year, and an abortion-related issue is sure to fire up the base.

They are banking on voters being stupid.

There’s a lot of that going around these days.

Look at the recall campaigns against Caldwell and West Ada School Board members. In Caldwell, recall supporters acted while emotions were high over a long-time Caldwell educator being ousted from his position as superintendent without any indication why. District patrons wanted a public hearing–which the former superintendent could have asked for, but didn’t.

Instead, they are getting a chance to authorize two trustees who supported reassignment of Supt. Tim Rosandick to appoint replacements for two other trustees who agreed with them. The voters of zones 1 and 5 will have no say in who represents them until the next trustee elections in May 2017.

I can’t even imagine what would happen if West Ada recall supporters are successful in getting four trustees recalled. The statute says that, in case of a board vacancy, a majority of the remaining board appoint a replacement. So the West Ada School District could one day be under the direction of one man and the four friends he selects to join him on the board.

Some researchers believe that emotion trumps reason in most decision making.

Idaho’s failure to revise and expand Medicaid supports that reasoning. Every year the Governor’s Task Force states the reasons to adopt it; expansion insure an additional 78,000 Idahoans, save 75-100 lives each year, and cost Idaho taxpayers $173 million less over ten years than the current programs for indigent.

The arguments against? Medicaid expansion is connected to Obamacare. Idaho won the right to refuse it by suing the Federal government. Congress may withdraw the program one day.

Beating the Feds trumps saving money and lives. Emotion over logic.

So it was comforting to see a recent poll indicate that voters believe government policies should be based on “the best available science.” The survey sponsors–Research!America and ScienceDebate.org—wanted to know if Americans would support having one presidential debate focus on the science related to healthcare, climate change, energy, and the economy.   Eight-six percent of respondents were in favor of such a debate.

Maybe if we gather information and act like we base decisions on logic, we will.

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