This week’s Crosstalk topic was inspired by a suggestion from Chronicle reader Tom Conklin. Topic suggestions are welcome, email us your ideas! Conklin asked that we discuss what role emotions play in politics.

Voters are emotional beings and politicians of all stripes are expert at manipulating those feelings.

The emotional coinage of fear and anger are their most popular tools.

The fear of losing your job to low-wage immigrants can your fuel views on immigration and race.

The fear that the slow recovery from the Great Recession will never reach us, personally, colors our view on world trade and environmental regulations.

Fear and hate are two sides of the same coin, and when our politicians express their hate — even inappropriately — we understand it because we, too, are afraid and angry.

I suspect we choose many of our politicians not because we agree with their policies, or even their party, but because they are angry about the same things we are.

Our fears are legitimate, our anger is a natural response.

But those emotions are a poor tool for judging law and government policy, and seldom survive the face-to-face debate that is, in most cases, the only way to resolve our most controversial issues.

Water rights in the Klamath Basin are a good example of a difficult conflict that was resolved, in large part, by an agreement threshed out among the parties involved.

Fear and hate are not the only emotions that come into political play, however.

Empathy, by far the more admirable trait, can also be a dangerous guide when it comes to developing government policy.

The healthcare debate is a case in point. Both sides can easily bring forward those who have suffered, or will suffer, under new or existing healthcare policy.

There are winners and losers in the original bill, and there will be winners and losers if the bill is repealed, replaced or modified.

Most of us are empathetic, and not one of us would tell a cancer patient, “I'm sorry, but I don't want to pay for your healthcare and you are just going to have to die.”

The truth is, someone is going to fall through the cracks. Someone is going to go bankrupt because of their medical costs. Someone is going to suffer because they can’t afford good care. Someone is going to die because care is not available to them.

Our hearts go out to those on the losing end of the equation, whatever that equation may be.

But those who are designing legislation must set aside the emotion of empathy and make those kind of choices, cold-heartedly ask the question, “How can we best help the most people?”

They must dispassionately ask what resources are available, and how can those resources should be used to help the greatest number of people in need.

If saving one life from a specific disease costs $1 billion, and saving the lives of 10,000 people from another needs $1 billion, logic tells us to save the 10,000.

Those who are trained in this kind of national decision making are the bureaucrats, specialists in Washington who develop policy regardless of whether they are working for Democrats or Republicans, agree with the policy or disagree.

Good governance isn’t a matter of simply saying, “Make it so.” It’s a matter of asking, “How can we best accomplish the goal.” And listening to their response.

— Mark Gibson

Leftists are seeking to remove objectivity in political decisions by encouraging emotion-based subjectivity, which is very dangerous because it blurs the line between entitlements and rights.

In a free society, an individual has the right to seek some type of service, not the right to demand that it be provided and that other people be forced to pay for it.

These are two separate and distinct concepts that Democrats and the Left are seeking to fuse together.

Illogical emotional ideology has started to trump the rule of law and often any type of rational solution for today’s political policies.

Demonization is what the Left does best and it is just downright scary, especially when it is directed at the American flag and our national anthem.

This madness of the NFL taking a knee and refusing to recognize the sacrifices made by our troops for their right to play a game and make millions — is all part of the agenda: Stoke the fires of racial and ideological division to attract constituencies and undermine patriotism and support for American values.

Identity politics is something the Left excels at. The end goal, of course, is to generate support by a horde of aggrieved people for a nanny state where the government solves all your problems.

So much easier to suckle on the teat of those who will be forced to pay for an expansion of service programs than to be accountable for making your own life work.

James Madison wrote in 1822: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Instead of our children learning civics — the rich history of a relatively young nation that sprang from a cry for freedom in 1776 and resulted in the most exceptional expression of republican government of all time — they are obliquely taught to be ashamed of our nation’s core principles and values. There is even an aggressive campaign by a consortium of Leftist groups now underway to eradicate important chapters of our nation’s history.

The war on statutes is masquerading as a fight between good and evil and the side of emotionalism is even okay with destroying property to get its way.

That is the problem with the entire movement; you don’t get to a better place as a society when you shout down and seek to shut down people who disagree with you; when you justify rioting, looting and attacking dissenters to get your way.

When you howl to remove hate speech and then hatefully accuse people who oppose your views of being evil.

Encouraging people to have arrested emotional development and erase the lessons of U.S. history, or toss out support for the constitutional principles that protect them, is to deny knowledge and truth.

Pitting Americans against each other is the quickest way to destroy a nation and turn us all into commodities instead of individuals.

“George Santayna, a 20th century philosopher, said: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

— RaeLynn Ricarte

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