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Barnes and... A Conversation with Dr. Drew Westen

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Dr. Drew Westen is a professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiarty at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Westen is currently a guest blogger on the Huffington Post, a commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered", and the founder of Westen Strategies, a political and corporate consulting firm.

Barnes and Westen discussed his new book "The Political Brain" which talks about the psychology of politics and how politicians can capture the haearts and minds of voters through communication.

TRANSCRIPT

HELLO AGAIN, EVERYONE, AND THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US. DR. DREW WESTEN HAS FOR A QUARTER CENTURY BEEN A PRACTICING CLINICAL AND INSTRUCTIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST WORKING IN THE FIELD IN SOME OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITIES AND TRAINED A.M. SOME OF THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITIES IN THE COUNTRY, IS NOW WITH EMORY UNIVERSITY IN ATLANTA. IT IS NOT THE PRACTICE OF PSYCHOLOGY, THOUGH, THAT HAS PUSHED HIM TO FAME QUITE AS MUCH AS HIS STUDY OF POLITICAL BRAIN. THE POLITICAL BRAIN PUBLISHED IN 2007, DR. WESTEN, SUDDENLY YOU ARE A HOUSEHOLD NAME, WELL, IN SOME ZIP CODES, ANYWAY.

YEAH, IT'S A SMALL NUMBER OF ZIP CODES, BUT I CERTAINLY HAVE -- MY LIFE'S TAKEN A SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT TURN SINCE WRITING THE BOOK.

WELL, YOUR LIFE HAS BROUGHT YOU TO THE CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY HERE IN LITTLE ROCK, WHERE THIS INTERVIEW IS TAKING PLACE, AND OUR THANKS TO THE CLINTON PEOPLE FOR ALOG US TO HAVE THIS SPACE AND YOU FOR MAKING AVAILABLE YOUR TIME. SPOOEB THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

YOU ONCE CALLED YOURSELF A POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST. IN THE ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE, THERE WOULD BE 135 PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY'RE POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGISTS, AND IN CONGRESS, 535 WHO THINK THAT. DESCRIBE THE DISCIPLINE, IF YOU WILL.

OR THE LACK OF IT.

POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST.

A POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST IS SOMEONE WHO TRIES TO UNDERSTAND THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND HOW THE POLITICAL MIND AND BRAIN REALLY WORK. WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES US TICK? WHAT IS IT THAT ALLOWS US TO HEAR A MESSAGE? WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES US RESPOND TO PARTICULAR MESSAGES THAT NOT OTHERS? WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES US TO RESPOND TO PARTICULAR CANDIDATES AND NOT TO OTHERS?

HOW DOES THAT DIFFER, THOUGH, FROM, SAY -- WHY DO I CHOOSE A WHITE CUP AS OPPOSED TO A BLACK CUP?

ACTUALLY, MY BACKGROUND, AS I SAID, IS A CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, WORKING WITH PATIENTS AND DOING CLINICAL RESEARCH. IN MANY WAYS, THAT AND MY BACKGROUNDS AS A NEUROSCIENTIST, ARE WHAT COMBINED TO TURN ME INTO A POLITICAL SCIENTIST. I CAME TO IT IN A BACKGROUND OF HOW IT IS THAT OUR BRAIN WORKS, AND I WAS LOOKING AT THE POLITICAL SCENE AND LOOKING PARTICULARLY AT THAT TIME AT THE WAY DEMOCRATS WERE TRYING TO APPEAL TO PEOPLE CONSTANTLY WITH FACTS AND FIGURES AND 12-POINT PLANS. REPUBLICANS WERE APPEALING TO THEM WITH REALLY WELL-CRAFTED, WELL-TESTED, MARKETED PHRASES. AND THE DEMOCRATS KEPT COMING OUT ON THE SHORT END OF IT. AND IT MADE COMPLETE SENSE FROM A PSYCHOLOGICAL POINT OF VIEW AND FROM A NEUROSCIENCE POINT OF VIEW OF HOW OUR BRAINS WORK. BUT IT DIDN'T SEEM TO BE MAKING MUCH SENSE FOR DEMOCRATS FROM A POLITICAL POINT OF VIEW.

WELL, I MEAN, AS I THINK YOU PUT IT ONCE, THE DEMOCRATS WERE OFFERING VOTERS PIE CHARTS; REPUBLICANS WERE OFFERING THEM PIE.

ACTUALLY, I NEVER SAID THAT, BUT I SHOULD HAVE. YOU SAID IT REALLY WELL. NO, IT'S ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. DEMOCRATS TEND TO LEAD WITH THEIR POLICIES, AND REPUBLICANS TEND TO LEAD WITH THEIR VALUES. AND IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT FOR A SECOND, IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW MOST ABOUT A POLITICIAN IS, ONE IS, YOU KNOW, IS HIS HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE OR HER HEART IN THE RIGHT PLACE? DOES THIS PERSON SHARE MY VALUES? AND SECOND, DO YOU THINK THIS PERSON'S GOING TO BE -- GOING TO BE ABLE TO EXECUTE THOSE VALUES IN A WAY THAT IS COMPETENT AND HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY? THOSE ARE REALLY THE QUESTIONS THAT WE ANSWER MOST OF THE TIME WITH OUR GUTS RATHER THAN WITH OUR -- YOU KNOW, OUR WEIGHING ONE 12-POINT PLAN AGAINST ANOTHER.

WELL, I THINK YOU DID WRITE ONCE THAT WE -- THAT WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYING ON EMOTIONS, THE GOP HAS DONE A MUCH BETTER, EFFECTIVE JOB, CERTAINLY IN POST-WORLD WAR II ERROR, THAT DEMOCRATS -- I BELIEVE YOU SAID MR. CLINTON, PRESIDENT CLINTON, WAS THE FIRST POST-WAR DEMOCRAT -- AND I AM KIND OF EXTRAPOLATING HERE -- WHO UNDERSTOOD EMOTION AND VALUES WITNESSES TO HIS SUCCESSFUL PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.

RIGHT. IN FACT, HE IS THE ONLY DEMOCRAT WHO HAS BEEN ELECTED AND REELECTED TO THE PRESIDENCY IN THAT ENTIRE PERIOD SINCE FDR, WHICH IS REMARKABLE. WHAT BILL CLINTON REALLY UNDERSTOOD IS THAT IT'S ABOUT -- IT ISN'T ABOUT DUMBING DOWN YOUR MESSAGES. IT'S NOT ABOUT APPEALING TO PEOPLE BY SAYING I'M NOT GOING TO TELL THEM THE TRUTH. I'M NOT GOING TO TELL THEM FACTS. YOU KNOW, I'M NOT GOING TO TELL THEM WHAT THE PROBLEM IS OR WHAT I'M GOING TO DO APPROXIMATE IT. BUT IT IS ABOUT -- IT'S ABOUT FIRST BRINGING THEM IN WITH A VIVID STORY, WITH A STORY OF SOMEONE FROM THE ROAD WHO YOU'VE MET OR WITH SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU SAY OH, I FEEL AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THE PROBLEM IS. YOU THEN LAY OUT WHAT IT IS. YOU LAY OUT BRIEFLY WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO. AND YOU LEAVE THEM WITH SOME SENSE OF HOPE, AND THAT'S WHAT HE DID MORE THAN -- REALLY, BETTER THAN ANYONE HAS DONE, AT LEAST TILL BARACK OBAMA HAS ARRIVED ON THE SCENE, AND WE'LL SEE IF HE DOES AS WELL.

DID HE RECEIVE THAT GIFT GENETICALLY, OR WAS IT EXPERIENTIALLY, OR DID HE JUST LOOK AT THE REGAN YEARS AND SAW HOW SUCCESSFUL THAT MR. RAY BEGAN HAD BEEN?

YOU KNOW, I HAD A FEELING FROM HAVING MET PRESIDENT CLINTON A FEW TIMES THAT THAT'S ONE OF THESE THINGS THAT YOU'RE BORN WITH. I MEAN, THERE'S NOT A LOT OF RESEARCH ON THAT KIND OF POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE, THAT ABILITY TO -- IT'S NOT JUST GENERAL INTELLIGENCE, WHICH HE CERTAINLY HAS PLENTY OF, YOU KNOW, THAT KIND OF ABILITY TO THINK QUICKLY AND SEE COMPLEXITY, WHICH HE CERTAINLY SHARES WITH BARACK OBAMA. AND YOU KNOW, WITH MANY VERY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE WHO MIGHT HAVE MADE VERY GOOD POLICY PRESIDENTS BUT NEVER GOT ELECTED, LIKE ADOLAI STEVENSON OR OTHERS WHO SAY -- YOU KNOW, A WOMAN ONCE APPROACHED HIM GUSHING AFTER A SPEECH AND SAID, YOU KNOW, GOVERNOR STEVENSON, YOU KNOW, EVERY -- WHAT WAS IT? EVERY EDUCATED PERSON IN AMERICA IS ROOTING FOR YOU. AND HE SAID THAT'S NOT ENOUGH. I NEED TO WIN.

WELL, OF MR. OBAMA, YOU DID WRITE HE IS THE FIRST SINCE MR. CLINTON TO HAVE THE GENERAL INTELLIGENCE TO GOVERN AND YET THE EMOTIONAL AND POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE TO WIN.

YES. AND I THINK THAT'S TRUE. I THINK FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON, PRESIDENT CLINTON IS MORE OF A NATURAL IN THE SENSE THAT HE IS COMFORTABLE WITH BOTH POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EMOTIONS; WHEREAS, BARACK OBAMA IS MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE WITH POSITIVE EMOTIONS. BILL CLINTON DIDN'T HAVE ANY TROUBLE WHEN SOMEONE HIT HIM HITTING BACK. HE DIDN'T HAVE ANY TROUBLE ATTACKING THE OTHER SIDE. I MEAN, AND BARACK OBAMA, IN CONTRAST, IS -- HE IS BRILLIANT AND INSPIRING HOPE, BUT HE LIKES TO TELL STORIES ABOUT ANTAGONISTS, AND HE LIKES TO TELL A STORY THAT DOESN'T SAY LOOK, THIS IS HOW WE GOT HERE. HE WOULD RATHER SAY LET'S NOT TALK ABOUT HOW WE GOT HERE. LET'S JUST TALK ABOUT HOW TO FIX IT. WHEN HE IS AT HIS BEST, HE IS ACTUALLY TELLING THE FULL STORY.

IS THAT A MISTAKE? HE HAS BEEN FAULTED IN SOME DEMOCRATIC CORRIDORS FOR BEING TOO -- OR CHOOSING BIPARTISANSHIP TOO PERSISTENT IN HIS APPEALS TO BIPARTISANSHIP WHEN IN THE EARLY DAYS HASN'T GOTTEN HIM FAR.

I THINK YOU SAW THAT, REALLY, IN THE STIMULUS BILL, WHERE THE REPUBLICANS WERE TAKING A LOT OF HARD SHOTS TO THE MID SECTION AT HIM AND AT HIS -- AT HIS PROPOSAL, AND HE RESPONDED BY TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK. AND THAT DOESN'T TEND TO WORK VERY WELL IN POLITICS, AND IT WAS NOT WORKING WELL AT ALL, AND PEOPLE WERE START TO GO SAY I'M NOT SO SURE THAT THIS PLAN IS A VERY GOOD IDEA. IT'S WHEN HE THEN STARTED TELLING THE STORY, LOOK, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT FISCAL CONSERVATISM FROM YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS ARE THE ONES WHO CREATED THIS MESS. SO IT'S WHEN HE STARTED DOING THAT AGAIN THAT YOU STARTED SEE THE NUMBERS FOR THE STIMULUS PACKAGE GO BACK UP LIKE THIS AGAIN. AND IT WAS ACTUALLY VERY MUCH LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN, WHERE IT WASN'T UNTIL EARLY SEPTEMBER THAT HE BARELY MENTIONED THAT HE EVER REALLY EVEN MENTIONED THE NAME JOHN McCAIN. IT WAS AS IF HE WAS RUNNING AND McCAIN WOULD RUN HIS SHOW, AND LET THE BEST MAN WIN. BUT YOU KNOW, THE OTHER GUY WAS TAKING A LOT OF SHOTS AT HIM. IT WASN'T UNTIL HE WAS FOUR POINTS BEHIND IN THE POLLS HE STARTED SAYING DO YOU WANT FOR MORE YEARS OF GEORGE BUSH BECAUSE THAT'S WHO McCAIN IS, AND THAT'S WHEN YOU STARTED TO SEE THE RISE IN THE POLLS. WHAT HE'S COMFORTABLE WITH IS INSPIRING AND SAYING, YOU KNOW, YOU GUYS MESSED UP AND I'M GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT. OBAMA WOULD RATHER SAY LET'S PUT ALL THOSE DIFFERENCES BEHIND US.

IT WAS STARTLING, MR. CLINTON, I THINK EVEN IN HIS OWN BOOK, LEARNED FIRSTHAND THAT TO -- HE OFTEN SAID THAT YOU HAVE TO RESPOND TO AN ATTACK, AND YOU BETTER DO IT QUICKLY, A LESSON HE LEARNED HERE, AND YET WE SAW THE TWO MEN WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN HIS IMMEDIATE SUCCESSORS, FIRST MR. GORE AND THEN MR. KERRY, TAKE THESE BODY BLOWS, THESE SLAPS, AND WITHOUT COMMENTING AT ALL ON THE VERACITY OF THE ACCUSATIONS, SAY NOTHING IN RESPONSE.

A TERRIBLE MISTAKE. YOU CAN'T MAKE A WORSE MISTAKE IN POLITICS, AND ACTUALLY, FOR GOOD NEUROLOGICAL REASONS IN A SENSE. THAT IS IF YOU THINK ABOUT HOW IT IS THAT WE FORM ASSOCIATIONS IN OUR HEADS, THAT IS THAT IF I SAY TO YOU JOLLEY GREEN GIANT -- JOLLY GREEN GIANT POPS INTO YOUR HEAD, WHAT REPUBLICANS HAVE DONE AND CONSERVATIVES MORE GENERALLY HAVE DONE SO SUCCESSFULLY IN RECENT YEARS HAVE COME UP WITH PHRASES THAT GRAB PEOPLE AND STICK IN THEIR MINDS, TAX-AND-SPEND LIBERALS, LIBERAL ELITES, THE IDEA OF SMALL GOVERNMENT, LOW TAXES, AND GIVING MONEY BACK TO TAXPAYERS BECAUSE THEY'RE THE ONES WHO KNOW HOW TO SPEND IT. THEY KNOW HOW TO TELL THOSE KIND OF STORIES THAT TALK ABOUT THEIR VALUES IN A WAY -- JUST TO GIVE AN EXAMPLE BECAUSE I REMEMBER HEARING IN THE 2006 ELECTION, THERE WAS A DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN AND A REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN WHO WERE ON ONE OF THE CABLE STATIONS, I THINK MSNBC, AND THEY WERE ADDRESSING THE QUESTION OF ARE DEMOCRATS GOING TO RAISE YOUR TAXES? FIRST OF ALL, A REPUBLICAN WOULD NEVER HAVE GONE ON THE SHOW WITH THAT PREMISE. YOU KNOW, ARE REPUBLICANS GOING TO THROW YOU INTO AN UNNECESSARY WAR? YOU KNOW, THEY WOULDN'T DO IT. BUT PUTTING THAT ASIDE, THE DEMOCRAT ANSWERED THE QUESTION BY SAYING NO, UNDER OUR PLAN, THIS WILL GO UP AND THIS WILL GO DOWN. I REMEMBER THE HANDS MOVING LIKE THIS. YOU KNOW? AND I REMEMBER THINKING HE SEEMS LIKE AN AFFABLE GUY. I HAVEN'T THE SLIGHTEST IDEA WHAT HE'S SAYING OR IF IT'S TRUE. THEN SHE COMES ON, THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESSWOMAN, SHE SAID YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US? THEY SEE THIS AS REVENUE STREAM. WE SEE THIS AS YOUR PAYCHECK. AND I LOOKED AND I THOUGHT, MY GOD, THIS JUST IS -- THIS ISN'T A FAIR FIGHT. YOU KNOW, SHE'S COMING AT THIS WITH THESE PHRASES THAT ARE GOING STRAIGHT FOR THE HEART THAT THEY HAVE MARKET TESTED. THEY KNOW IN ADVANCE THIS WORKS. AND HE'S JUST MAKING STUFF UP AS HE GOES ALONG, HOPING THAT IT WORKS. THAT'S NOT THE WAY YOU'RE GOING TO WIN HEARTS AND MINDS. TO SPEAK TO THE ISSUE THAT YOU'RE ASKING ABOUT, BILL CLINTON UNDERSTOOD YOU NEVER LET AN ATTACK SIT. AND THE NEUROLOGICAL REASON FOR IT IS IF YOU LET PEOPLE SHAPE THOSE ASSOCIATIONS IN VOTERS' MINDS, IF YOU LET PEOPLE START TO -- WHENEVER SOMEONE SAYS LIBERAL, YOU GET A BAD FEELING. WHEN SOMEONE SAYS GOVERNMENT, YOU GET A BAD FEELING. IF YOU LET THOSE BAD FEELINGS START TO GET ASSOCIATED WITH THINGS THAT MATTER TO YOU, YOU'RE IN A LOT OF TROUBLE. AND IF -- PARTICULARLY IF IT'S ABOUT YOU, IF SOMEONE SAYS AL GORE AND THE PERSON CRINGES AND THINKS CONDESCENDING. THE PERSON SAYS JOHN KERRY, THEY CRINGE AND THINK HE BETRAYED HIS BUDDIES. THAT'S NOT WHAT YOU CAN ALLOW TO HAPPEN.

WHAT DOES IT SAY, THOUGH, ABOUT US, THIS ARGUMENT, THIS DIALOGUE, ABOUT THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN INTELLECT I GUESS IS WHAT I'M SAYING?

WELL, YOU KNOW, I GUESS I'D SAY TWO THINGS ABOUT IT IS THAT I'M NOT REALLY TERRIBLY FOND OF QUOTING OR PARAPHRASING DONALD RUMSFELD, BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH THE BRAIN THAT YOU HAVE AND NOT THE BRAIN THAT YOU WISH YOU HAVE. AND THE REALITY IS THAT WE ARE, LIKE ALL OTHER ANIMALS, WE ARE EMOTION DRIVEN. WE ARE DRIVEN TOWARDS THINGS THAT EITHER FEEL OR WE ANTICIPATE WILL BE GOOD FOR US AND OUR FAMILIES AND PEOPLE AND THINGS THAT MATTER TO US, AND WE EITHER FIGHT OR FLEE FROM THINGS THAT FEEL BAD OR THAT MAKE US ANGRY. AND THAT'S WHAT -- THAT'S WHAT MAKES US DO WHAT WE DO. THAT'S THE FIRST ANSWER. BUT THE SECONDS IS ONE THAT MAYBE WILL MAKE YOU FEEL A LITTLE MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY -- THE DATA ARE REALLY CLEAR THAT PEOPLE VOTE WITH THEIR GUTS. LOOK AT THIS LAST ELECTION, JUST A CASE STUDY OF -- YOU KNOW, OF OBAMA VERSUS HILLARY CLINTON AND OBAMA VERSUS JOHN McCAIN. IT WASN'T THAT HE HAD A MESSAGE OF CHANGE AND, YOU KNOW, HILLARY DIDN'T HAVE A MESSAGE OF CHANGE. JOHN EDWARDS TALKED ABOUT CHANGE, YOU KNOW, LONG BEFORE OBAMA WAS RUNNING. YOU KNOW? BILL CLINTON TALKED ABOUT CHANGE IN 1992. YOU KNOW? SO IT WAS THAT HE HAD A CAPACITY TO INSPIRE THAT NEITHER OF THOSE -- OF THOSE CANDIDATES HAD. BUT POINT ABOUT THAT IS THAT THE TWO BEST PREDICTORS OF PEOPLE'S VOTING BEHAVIOR ARE -- ONE IS THEIR FEELINGS TOWARDS THE PARTIES AND THEIR PRINCIPLES. DOES THIS PARTY SHARE MY VALUES? AND THE SECOND IS THEIR GUT-LEVEL FEELINGS ABOUT THE CANDIDATES. WHAT DOES THIS CANDIDATE ELICIT FROM ME? AND AT FIRST BLUSH YOU GO, OH, NO, THIS IS HOW PEOPLE ARE VOTING. BUT IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, IN A REPUBLICAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT, LIKE OURS, AT LEAST FOR NOW, WHERE PEOPLE VOTE EVERYONE DOWN -- FROM SENATOR DOWN TO COUNTY SHERIFF AND COUNTY COMMISSIONER, YOU KNOW, IN SOME PLACES -- AND SCHOOL BOARD AND WHATEVER, AND ESPECIALLY JUDGES WHO THEY VOTE FOR, WHICH GOD KNOWS WHAT CRITERIA WE USE TO PICK OUR JUDGES. BUT --

DO I KNOW THE GUY OR DOES MY LAWYER KNOW HIM.

THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT. OR DO I LIKE HIS NAME. THAT KIND OF STUFF. BUT IN A FORM OF GOVERNMENT LIKE OURS, I'M AN EDUCATED VOTER. I DO POLITICAL CONSULTING. I WROTE A BOOK ON POLITICS. I KNEW IN THIS LAST ELECTION VERY, VERY WELL WHAT JOHN McCAIN AND BARACK OBAMA STOOD FOR, WHAT THEY WOULD LIKELY DO AND NOT DO. I HAD A -- MMMM -- NOT TERRIBLY GOOD UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THE DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER, JIM MARTIN VERSUS SAXBY CHANNELS, WOULD DO IN THE SENATE? GEORGIA. I EVEN NEW JIM MARTIN. NOW YOU GET DOWN TO CONGRESS. I VOTED FOR JOHN LEWIS BECAUSE HE IS A CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER. HE HAD A D BY HIS NAME, I AM A DEMOCRAT, AND WHAT THAT MEANS IS HE IS MORE LIKELY TO SHARE MY VALUES THAN THE PERSON OPPOSING HIM. IN THIS CASE HE RUN UNOPPOSED. MORE THAN THAT, WE LOOK AT THE D OR THE R AND WE SAY WLIVR WE ARE, THIS PERSON IS LIKELY TO SHARE OUR VALUES. IF WE'VE HEARD THEM SPEAK, READ OR HEARD SOME THINGS ABOUT THEM, YOU SAY YOU KNOW WHAT? I JUST DON'T HAVE A GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS PERSON. I LOOK AT THAT GUY, RICHARD NIXON, AND SOMETHING ABOUT HIM, HE SEEMS SHIFTY TO ME. IN THAT CASE, I'M REPUBLICAN, BUT HE JUST SEEMS SHIFTY, I'M NOT VOTING FOR HIM. I DON'T THINK HE'S GOING TO FAITHFULLY EXECUTE HIS VALUES. IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, THAT'S NOT SUCH A CRAZY WAY TO VOTE.

WELL, MR. -- MR. FRANK HAD GREAT SUCCESS WITH A BOOK, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS, ANYWAY, BUT BASICALLY, HE ARGUED THE THREE Gs. IF YOU -- IF YOU -- AND, OF COURSE, KANSAS WAS A METAPHOR FOR THE LARGER COUNTRY. BUT IF YOU JUMPED UP AND DOWN ON GOD, GUNS, AND GAYS, YOU COULD PERSUADE INDIVIDUALS THAT -- TO VOTE AGAINST THEIR ECONOMIC SELF-INTEREST, THEIR SOCIAL/CULTURAL SELF-INTEREST MORE OFTEN THAN NOT

AND HE IS CORRECT, RIGHT.

YES, BUT ARE WE SELLING THE PEOPLE SHORT? DOES THAT ARGUMENT SELL -- BECAUSE MAYBE -- AND I DON'T MEAN TO DEFEND -- BUT MAYBE THOSE ARE THE ISSUES THAT ARE PARAMOUNT TO THEM AND THEIR OWN ECONOMIC ISSUE THEY'RE WILLING TO SACRIFICE.

THERE'S REALLY TWO QUESTIONS. I OFTEN, OVER THIS LAST -- SINCE MY BOOK CAME OUT, I WOULD OFTEN BE SPEAKING IN A HOME IN GREENWICH VILLAGE PROBABLY WORTH $15 MILLION TO A GROUP OF PROGRESSIVE DONORS AND ACTIVIST, AND SOMEONE WOULD ALWAYS ASK THIS QUESTION, THEY'D SAY, WELL, WHAT'S THE MATTER OF KANSAS? WHY ARE THEY VOTING AGAINST THEIR SELF-INTEREST? I LOOK AROUND THE ROOM, LOOK UP, LOOK AT THESE BEAUTIFUL ORNATE CEILINGS. WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU ARE IN THE REPUBLICAN TAX BRACKET. YOU SHOULD BE VOTING REPUBLICAN BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THE DEMOCRATS WANT TO RAISE TAXES ON PEOPLE WHO MAKE -- WHO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS OR MORE, AND I SUSPECT YOU PROBABLY DO. SO PART OF IT IS THAT PEOPLE VOTE WITH THEIR VALUES, BUT THE OTHER IS THE ONLY REASON THOSE THREE Gs WORK IS BECAUSE DEMOCRATS WERE SO INEFFECTUAL AND HAD BEEN SO INEFFECTUAL IN APPEALING TO PEOPLE'S VALUES THEMSELVES. I WORKED WITH SOME POLLSTERS IN WASHINGTON THESE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS TO DEVELOP AND TEST MESSAGES FROM THE PROGRESSIVE SIDE, RUNNING ANYWHERE FROM RIDE DEAD IN THE CENTER TO CENTER LEFT TO LEFT, LOOKING AT GUNS, GAYS, ABORTION, THE WHOLE SERIES OF THESE KIND OF ISSUES. THERE WASN'T A SINGLE ONE OF THOSE ISSUES THAT WE COULDN'T WIN THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS ON BY DOUBLE-DIGITS IF WE SIMPLY DID OUR HOMEWORK AND TALKED TO THEM ABOUT THE VALUES THAT, SAY, IN MY CASE, MAKE ME A DEMOCRAT, ABOUT -- I DON'T LIKE GOVERNMENT INTERFERING WITH PEOPLE'S DECISIONS ABOUT WHEN THEY SHOULD OR SHOULDN'T START THEIR FAMILY, FOR EXAMPLE. THAT'S WHY I DON'T LIKE THE IDEA OF GOVERNMENT STEPPING IN IN ABORTION. WELL, IF YOU -- IF YOU TAKE THAT VALUE, ABOUT GOVERNMENT STEPPING IN IN ABORTION, YOU START TO THINK ABOUT IT DIFFERENTLY, SAY WAIT A MINUTE, IS THIS A -- I THOUGHT -- I THOUGHT CONSERVATIVES WERE FOR -- WERE FOR GOVERNMENT STICKING BACK AND LETTING PEOPLE MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES.

PRESENTATION AND NOT POLICY, THEN?

IT'S MUCH MORE ABOUT -- ABOUT THE -- WHAT VALUES YOU COMMUNICATE TO PEOPLE AND HOW SINCERELY YOU DO IT. I MEAN, MY -- YOU KNOW, MY RESPONSE TO A LOT OF DEMOCRATS WHO WILL SAY TO ME, YOU KNOW, I LIVE IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY, AND THERE WE CAN'T TALK ABOUT THIS ISSUE BECAUSE IF WE TALK ABOUT IT, WE LOSE. MY RESPONSE IS ALWAYS THE SAME, WHICH IS YOU NEED TO WORK HARDER AT ARTICULATING YOUR VALUES, THEN, BECAUSE YOU'RE OBVIOUSLY -- IF THIS IS WHAT YOU FIRMLY BELIEVE, YOU OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO CONVINCE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR AREA THAT, AT THE VERY LEAST, NOT TO VOTE AGAINST YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE THIS HEARTFELT BELIEF, AND MAYBE EVEN FOR YOU. A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS WAS GOVERNOR TIM CANE, WHEN HE WAS RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR IN VIRGINIA, AND HE GOT HIT WITH A -- BY HIS OPPONENT SAYING HE IS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY, WHICH, YOU KNOW, KISS OF DEATH IN MOST PARTS OF THE SOUTH. AND IT'S A KISS OF DEATH IN THE UNITED STATES. IT KILLED MICHAEL DUKAKIS BECAUSE HIS RESPONSE, TO PARAPHRASE BIL MAR WAS, YOU KNOW, WHATEVER. IF HIS WIFE WAS RAPED AND MURDERED, WHAT WOULD HE DO? EH, WHATEVER. HE DIDN'T COMMUNICATE ANY VALUES BACK. TIM CANE BASICALLY SAID LOOK, I'M A PRACTICING CATHOLIC, AND MY FAITH TELLS ME THAT KILLING SOMETHING IS SOMETHING THAT -- KILLING SOMEONE IS SOMETHING THAT'S BEST -- OWE DECIDING ON MATTERS OF THE -- OR DECIDING ON MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH IS BEST LEFT TO GOD. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH ME ON THAT, I UNDERSTAND IT, BUT THAT'S WHERE IT COMES FROM, IT COMES FROM A PLACE OF FAITH. YOU KNOW WHAT? I BET HE DIDN'T LOSE A VOTE BECAUSE OF THAT, AND HE DID BECOME A VERY POPULAR GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA.

OUR RATIONALAL AND EMOTIONAL SIDES ARE INEXTRICABLY INTERTWINED. WE MAKE -- MORE DECISIONS WE MAKE BASED ON REASON THAN EMOTION. AND YET WHEN IT COMES TO POLITICS, EMOTION SEEMS TO WIN EVERY TIME.

WELL, IT -- IT DEPENDS ON WHETHER THERE'S A FAIR FIGHT BETWEEN THE TWO SIDES. IF -- YOU KNOW, IF YOU HAVE -- IF YOU HAVE ONE SIDE THAT THINKS THAT THE WAY TO WIN VOTERS' HEARTS AND MINDS IS TO START WITH THEIR MIND AND LOAD THEM UP WITH FACTS AND FIGURES AND 12-POINT PLANS, THAT SIDE'S GOING TO LOSE NO MATTER -- NO MATTER WHETHER THE PEOPLE ARE WITH THEM OR NOT. DEMOCRATS HAVE, FOR EXAMPLE -- A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS IS BILL CLINTON MANAGED TO GET THROUGH THE CONGRESS A BAN ON ASSAULT -- ASSAULT WEAPONS. AND HERE IS ONE WHERE IT WAS NOT AT FIRST A POPULAR POSITION. BY THE TIME THAT LAW WAS ALLOWED TO SUNSET BY THE REPUBLICAN CONGRESS, IT WAS AT OVER 60% IN THE POLLS, PEOPLE SAY NAH, LET'S KEEP THAT, BECAUSE THEY REALIZED THAT NO ONE WAS TAKING AWAY THE GUNS OF LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS OR TAKING AWAY THEIR RIGHTS TO HUNT. IT WASN'T ABOUT HUNTING. AND THE QUESTION WAS, YOU KNOW, ARE WE SAFER WITHOUT HAVING GANG BANGERS HAVING M-16s? AND MOST PEOPLE SAID, YOU KNOW WHAT? I ACTUALLY FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE WITH THAT AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T MESS WITH MY RIGHT TO OWN A GUN TO PROTECT MY FAMILY OR TO HUNT. IF YOU FRAME IT LIKE THAT, MOST PEOPLE ARE PRETTY COMFORTABLE WITH THAT. BUT IF YOU, INSTEAD, RUN FROM IT, WHICH IS WHAT DEMOCRATS HAVE TRADITIONALLY DONE ON ISSUE AFTER ISSUE AFTER ISSUE, THEN PEOPLE START ATTRIBUTING TO DEMOCRATS ALL KINDS OF TYPICALLY WIMPY POSITIONS OR NOT STRONGLY HELD POSITIONS OR POSITIONS THAT AREN'T REALLY THEIRS.

SO CONCEDING THE ISSUE AND YET MORE?

ABSOLUTELY. IN FACT, THIS WAS -- THIS WAS JOHN KERRY'S MISTAKE IS THAT, YOU KNOW, SOMEONE ATTACKS HIM AND SAYS YOU'RE A FAKE WAR HERO. YOU KNOW, YOU DIDN'T EVEN REALLY -- YOU DIDN'T DESERVE THAT PURPLE HEART. AND INSTEAD OF RESPONDING DIRECTLY TO A -- YOU KNOW, AT THAT TIME, A PRESIDENT WHO WAS A DRAFT DODGER -- INSTEAD OF -- AND INSTEAD OF HITTING STRAIGHT BACK AND SAYING HOW DARE YOU WHEN YOU DODGED THE DRAFT YOURSELF, AND WHEN WE HAVE BOOTS ON THE GROUND THAT YOU'RE COMMANDING, DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS TO THOSE YOUNG MEN -- YOU KNOW, THOSE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN RIGHT NOW IN IRAQ WHO COULD BE GETTING SHOT AT RIGHT NOW TO KNOW THAT SOME DAY, 20 YEARS FROM NOW, SOMEONE COULD SAY YOU DIDN'T REALLY DESERVE THAT PURPLE HEART? AND IT COULD BE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND HIS ADVISORS WHO ARE DOING IT ON TELEVISION. HOW CAN YOU DO THAT AS OUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF? YOU OWE AN APOLOGY NOT TO ME BUT TO EVERY MAN AND WOMAN WHO HAS EVERY SERVED THIS COUNTRY. I THINK THE ELECTION WOULD HAVE GONE THE OTHER WAY.

WELL, TWO THINGS I HAVE TO POINT OUT JUST IN THE INTEREST OF BALANCE. THE TERM DRAFT DODGER IS ONE THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION WOULD THOROUGHLY REFUTE. BUT SOME OF THIS IS DONE THROUGH SURROGATES. DOES THAT LESSEN TO ANY EXTEND THE NEED TO RESPOND? OR JUST --

IT CAN BE. AND WHAT KERRY DID, UNFORTUNATELY, WAS THE WORST USE OF SURROGATES, WHICH WAS HE WAITED TWO AND A HALF WEEKS TO RESPOND TO THE SWIFT BOAT ATTACK AT ALL, AND THEN HE SENT HIS FEMALE CAMPAIGN ADVISOR OUT -- CAMPAIGN MANAGER OUT TO WRITE A LETTER TO THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION SAYING PLEASE TAKE THAT DOWN. AND IT WAS THE -- TO THE AVERAGE PERSON -- AVERAGE PERSON WATCHING THAT, IT SEEMED LIKE THE HEIGHT OF COWARD ICE. WHAT, ARE YOU GOING TO SEND YOUR MOMMY OUT TO DEFEND YOU? PUT UP YOUR DUKES AND DO IT YOURSELF. DON'T WAIT THREE WEEKS AND SAY PLEASE TAKE THAT DOWN. YOU PUT HIM IN THE POSITION OF SITTING ON HIS KNEES BEGGING THE PRESIDENT, WHICH IS NOT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU ARE RUNNING AGAINST HIM.

IT'S NOT REASON VERSUS EMOTION. IT'S ABOUT HOW YOU MAKE AN ARGUMENT THAT IS REASONABLE BUT THAT GRABS A VOTER EMOTIONALLY.

RIGHT. I MEAN, LOOK AT THE STIMULUS PACKAGE. HOW MANY OF US REALLY CAN SAY, YOU KNOW, WE KNOW ALL THE FINE POINTS OF EVERYTHING THAT'S IN THAT BILL? NO ONE VOTED ON THE FINE POINTS OF WHAT WAS IN THAT BILL. BUT YOU KNOW, WHAT WE FEEL IS SOMETHING'S GOT TO HAPPEN THAT'S DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAD IN THE LAST FEW YEARS. WHAT WE KNOW IS, AS BEST AS ANY OF US CAN KNOW, THAT RIGHT NOW THE GOVERNMENT IS THE ONLY ONE OUT THERE WHO'S GOT ANY MONEY TO SPEND BECAUSE THEY CAN PRINT IT. SO THEY CAN PUT SOME MONEY OUT THERE IN THE ECONOMY TO TRY TO GET THINGS GOING AGAIN SO WE CAN START REVERSING THE CYCLE. AND IT'S THAT -- IT'S THAT COMBINATION OF, LOOK, IT'S DIRE NOW, BUT HERE'S SOMETHING THAT WE CAN DO. IT WORKED IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION. AND HERE IS THE HOPE WE HAVE AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. THAT'S WHAT YOU NEED TO GET PEOPLE TO CONVINCE THEM. IT'S MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE THAN SAYING YES, BUT THERE $20 MILLION AIMED AT THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ARTS IS GOING TO DO X, Y, AND Z. IF YOU GET IN THE WEEDS LIKE THAT, YOU'RE ALREADY DEAD.

THAT'S TRUE. THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME. IT'S BEEN A PLEASURE.

THANKS.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR WATCHING, AND WE'LL SEE YOU

THANKS SO MUCH FOR WATCHING, AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

AETN.org > Programs > Barnes and... > Barnes and... A Conversation with Dr. Drew Westen