Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trump and Fear as an Instrument in American Politics

From the NYTimes:
Exploitation of fear has been part of the American political playbook since colonial pamphleteers whipped their neighbors into a frenzy over British misrule. It took on new potency in the nuclear age with Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter’s warnings about Ronald Reagan’s finger on the button in 1980.

But Mr. Trump — who drew harsh condemnation from President Obama on Tuesday — has intensified the power of fear in presidential politics by demonizing an entire religious group. And he has expanded the use of that power by stirring up fear in the aftermath of national traumas, like the San Bernardino, Calif., attack and now the Orlando shooting, that traditionally elicited measured and soothing responses from political leaders.
In the wake of the Orlando attack:
Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, said Mr. Trump was using the attack as an I-told-you-so moment. “He would see this as a confirmation of all the things he has been saying about the threat the United States faces and the need to be more aggressive,” he said.

Professor Zelizer cast Mr. Trump as part of a political strain dating at least from the 1950s. “When the United States is faced with national security threats or national security crises, you play to fear, you play to the anger of the electorate and you offer promises of military might as the solution,” he said.

In the jittery aftermath of a terrorist attack, people find themselves leaning on “emotional reasoning, as opposed to thinking through these kinds of issues rationally,” said Samuel Justin Sinclair, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of “The Psychology of Terrorism Fears.”

“It’s dangerous to think about making major policy decisions reactively and from a position of fear,” Dr. Sinclair said.

He added: “Whether you agree with his politics or not, I think Mr. Trump’s more aggressive tactics may be one attempt at trying to assert some level of control in a situation where people feel scared and a loss of control — as a means of helping them to feel safer. The dilemma then becomes whether supporting these more extreme policies justifies the ends — particularly in terms of how it changes us as a society.”

No comments:

Post a Comment