Friday, December 7, 2012

Approaching the Fiscal Cliff - a little panic might do us some good

In a piece today in Salon, Alex Setiz-Wald brings forth an important point about who, and how, our domestic security debate has been shaped by the psychology of fringe voices:

Psychological research has demonstrated that in times of crisis, people respond most acutely to emotionally strong voices, Bail explains. The media industry has long understood this intuitively and featured dramatic, colorful and emotional figures because they’re more compelling to readers. We’ve all seen this “fringe effect,” as Bail dubs it, from the Tea Party to the birther movement.

Yet I would humbly suggest that this observation is equally applicable to the “fiscal cliff/austerity bomb” debate currently raging in Washington.  Simply put, Republicans may be blamed in polling for causing the fiscal cliff, but their message is also likely to draw more resonance because they are using more emotional language, and actually displaying emotions, then President Obama.    The invective he raised when confronted by Republican attacks on his U.N Ambassador would be well suited to the fiscal cliff debate, yet his post-election speechmaking (and for that matter his campaign speechmaking)  is still fairly devoid of emotional content.

Does the fiscal cliff get “solved” or “fixed” if the President lets off a little steam?  No, but it does turn the narrative away from the raw emotion of the Republican position, and that may be the key to keeping both the government open, and the economy functioning after January 1st.

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