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Can Democrats Stop Republicans from Winning Big in 2014 and 2016?

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My Counter Interpretation of Edsall's Analysis

However, I would suggest that another interpretation of the same data that Edsall analyzes is possible -- namely, that the mainstream, moderate whites engaged their fighting spirit to fight against conservatives who advocate racial divide favoring whites over all others. Their engagement with the view of racial tolerance led them to engage their fighting spirit, instead of disengaging their fighting spirit in favor of a flight reaction or a freeze reaction.

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But if my counter-analysis is correct regarding racial attitudes, why doesn't my counter-analysis seem to work in regard to legalized abortion? In other words, even though anti-abortionists did not succeed in the 2012 presidential election, why is it the case that they somehow are able to win as many elections as they do?

However, despite the election that the anti-abortionists manage to win, my counter-analysis also provides an explanation of why they manage to win -- the moderate, mainstream voters who generally support legalized abortion in polls have not been sufficiently motivated yet to stand up to and fight back against the anti-abortionists.

In my estimate, conservatives have understood the psychodynamics of political emotion well enough to understand that they need to motivate political anger and thereby engage the fight reaction to help voter turnout. (In addition, they also need to have ideas that sound appealing and candidates who sound appealing.)

By contrast, liberals and progressives who embrace certain kinds of political tolerance (e.g., racial tolerance) find it more difficult to use established cultural stereotypes to castigate their political opponents with. Granted, liberals and progressives bandy about such terms of castigation as "racist" and "sexist" and "old white men" and "patriarchy" -- the typical stuff of political correctness. In addition, they have recently gotten some mileage out of the expression "war on women."

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But Newt Gingrich did a far better job of castigating Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary than President Obama himself did in his own speeches. Then again, perhaps he did not want to appear to be too much like Newt Gingrich.

No doubt Mitt Romney hurt himself in the presidential campaign by his comments about takers versus makers. President Obama skillfully turned this contrast against him.

But when it comes to castigating their political opponents, conservatives excel -- they are the superstars in the castigation game. By contrast, liberals and progressives appear to be amateurs.

Edsall's analysis of voter turnout shows that the Republican Party could possibly adapt its "anti-" messages to attract more white voters to vote for Republican candidates in elections, provided that the "anti-" messages do not back-fire and instead prompt certain mainstream, moderate whites to stand up and fight against such messages.

Barbara Koziak's Book About Aristotle's Views

In her fine book RETRIEVING POLITICAL EMOTION: THUMOS, ARISTOTLE, AND GENDER (2000), Barbara Koziak reminds us of Aristotle's views of political emotion, the kind of political emotion that motivates voters in the U.S. to turn out and vote.

The Greek word that is transliterated in the subtitle of her book as "thumos" (also transliterated as "thymos") refers to the part of the human psyche that is rendered in English translation as the spirited part. The spirited part of the human psyche is the part that involves our fight/flight/freeze reaction.

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In Aristotle's view, the spirited part of our psyches is engaged in political emotion. This much is straightforward. In terms of voter turnout, this means that voter turnout is motivated when our political emotion is engaged so that we are ready to fight for or against something. So far, so good.

But the spirited part of the human psyche ("thumos") also includes the flight and the freeze reactions. So let's consider these possible reactions in terms of motivating voter turnout.

For the sake of discussion, let's say that certain politicians and political commentators specialize in trying to arouse the fighting spirit on the assumption that the fighting spirit will probably motivate voter turnout. This appears to be the case with conservative political commentators.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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