Magazine article Tikkun

The Confidence Man

Magazine article Tikkun

The Confidence Man

Article excerpt

Unless John Kerry can make human emotion rather than political platforms the center of his campaign, George Bush will win the presidential election by the end of june. Kerry won't know what hit him until it's too late.

Here's how Kerry will lose. When Kerry clinched the democratic nomination of March 2, most voters did not know much of anything about him. A window of opportunity opened up for voter education. However, the factual information the Kerry campaign is trying to shove through this window will not shape voters' political judgment-their emotional responses will. As political scientists Richard Nacleau, Richard G. Niemi, and Timothy Amato have trenchantly argued in their essay "Emotions, Issue Importance, and Political Learning," voters may forget the information they initially learned about the candidate, but they will hold onto their emotional attitudes.

Bush's team has been studying this new science of political emotion. In fact, one of Bush's advisors, W. Russell Neuman, who works on information and security technology policy at the White House, literally wrote the book on this kind of political maneuvering (Affective Intelligence ana Political judgment, co-authored by George E. Marcus and Michael MacKuen). While Kerry went on a much deserved but poorly timed vacation, Bush's team got busy shaping voters' affective responses to the candidates, pouring over $20 million into anti-Kerry ads in March alone.

The Bush campaign is based on what Nadeau el al call the anxiety/hope model. In this model, the politician who promises voters (or creates the expectation) that a threat to voter well-being will end wins emotional capital. In short, if a politician can replace voters' anxiety with hope, that politician will come out ahead. It's a political confidence game.

Here's how it works:

A politician:

1. Takes an issue that causes anxiety among some voters

2. Turns it into a high anxiety issue for most voters

3. Offers up guaranteed hope and thus an expectation that the threat will be removed

4. Gains new emotional capital irom voters because of new confidence in the leadership ability of the politician to end the threat

5. Becomes their confidence man.

The fundamental structure of this strategy draws on the formula for Christian faith created by sixteenth-century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther in his 1333 Lectures on Galatians Luther's formula can be divided into the same five steps:

1. Anxiety. The believer tries to please God on his own (without Christ or the Holy Spirit) and fails miserably because he is a sinner.

2. Anxiety Heightened. Each repeated attempt by the believer to please GoJ through works increases Gods wrath. GoJ is enraged because he is being offered the man's sin (unfulfilled Divine Commandments or "Law") as if it were good works (fulfilled Law). The believer thus experiences an ever-deepening terror and humiliation in the sight of God. he comes to the realization that he is all flesh and not spirit.

3. Universal Salvation Guaranteed: Christ. The believer now sees himself as God sees him (he's a sinner). Being in complete accord with God's vision and will is the human experience of faith. This experience of faith is the experience of the presence of Christ, who is present in the faith itself.

4. The Human Feeling of Salvation While on Earth: Christ as Divine Mediator takes the sins of man upon himself. With this act by Christ, the man is justified in the sight of God and no longer feels guilty.

5. Confidence. Luther now proclaims that "[Any]onc who teaches something different or something contrary-we confidently declare that he was sent from the devil...." By equating inner, personal certainty (a conscience at peace because it is united with Christ) with so-called objective truth ("Christians [are] constituted as judges over all kinds of doctrine and become lords over all the laws of the entire world"), Luther made the emotional experience of extreme personal confidence the central religious experience of faith for many Protestants. …

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