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The Neocortical President: Arrogance is a Turn-Off for the Electorate

John on October 19, 2010 at 7:48 am

Michael Gerson in today’s Washington Post:

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents “facts and science and argument.” His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader — the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

What makes this doubly arrogant is that the facts don’t support Obama’s claims. Pew has looked at what voters actually know for several years now and guess what, Republicans know more than Democrats. I doubt that fact has changed in the last six months.

But it’s not as if psycho-analyzing the opposition is new territory for the left or even for President Obama. Remember this:

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I heard a few minutes of Rachel Maddow’s show last night in which she was rehearsing all the media explanations for the coming Republican wave. She pronounced each of them wrong-headed and false. What I did not hear offered as an explanation (I didn’t hear the whole show) was the idea that Americans are having an almost allergic reaction to the arrogance emanating from Washington. More than anything, this is what is giving the country fits. We don’t like being told what’s good for us over our strenuous objections to the contrary. It’s not supposed to work that way.

I listened to a speech by Scott Rasmussen Friday night. If I could boil it down to one line from his speech, it was this one: “It was because of Reagan’s skepticism of government that Americans’ faith in government went up.” It’s absolutely the case that voters are no more enamored with Republicans than Democrats this cycle. The real question driving voter anger is simple. Voters are agitated that no one seems to be listening to them anymore. They are understandably concerned that in the Age of Obama, Washington seems to have decided it can govern without their consent. So they’re going to yell and wave occasionally intemperate signs until they have the floor once again.

President Obama shows every sign of being an arrogant man who is determined to enact his agenda regardless of what the people want. If saying no or even “hell no!” to that is reptilian and irrational, then so be it. We might at least admit that listening to the people, while often inefficient and slow, is exactly how the founders intended the country to work. Perhaps the Constitutional-lawyer-in-chief should show a little more deference to them if not to us.

Related: I made some observations in this direction a year ago.

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