My latest: passion over reason
Reason over passion.
Pierre Trudeau become famous for that one. Some academics claim that Trudeau actually said “reason before passion,” but it doesn’t really matter. The sentiment is clear.
Namely, that we should always be rational. Not emotional.
It was a nice sentiment, and one that people liked at the time. But it described a far-away world that we all aspire to live in. And not, you know, the world in which we actually do.
Because, down here on planet Earth, people continue to make a lot of important political decisions based on passion and their gut. Not reason, and certainly not intellect.
The most successful politicians understand this the best. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is one of them.
Earlier this week, when asked about the certifiably-insane decision to move convicted child murderer in Paul Bernardo to a medium-security prison, Ford said this:
“He’s nothing but a scumbag. This SOB needs to be in jail 23 hours a day. As a matter of fact, I’d go one step further – that one hour he’s out, he should be in general population. That’s what should happen to this SOB.”
In effect, Ford was likely calling for Bernardo to be killed. That’s what often happens when “skins” – sex offenders – get placed with other inmates. They get killed.
“Visceral and vituperative,” the Toronto Star’s editorial board sniffed, alliteratively. Ford was “bellowing,” the Star tut-tutted.
Elsewhere in the pages of the Toronto Star, someone with the John Howard Society – an organization that advocates for prisoners – said that “public hatred of a prisoner should not justify harsher confinement.”
Similarly, a bureaucrat who formerly oversaw the federal prison system told the Star that such prison transfers “should not be based on revenge… we, as a country, gave up torture quite a while ago.”
See that? If you are upset about a man who raped and tortured children being sent to an “open campus model” prison – well, you are a vengeful, visceral and vituperative monster who favors torture.
As such, you’re probably opposed to Bernardo getting “stress management training” at his new home. They offer that there. (More family visits and “recreation and leisure time,” too.)
So, the Toronto Star editorial board and some special interest types are okay with Paul Bernardo getting a nicer place to rest his head at night. But I’ll wager most Canadians aren’t. When pressed, most of them probably side with Doug Ford.
That’s because politicians like Ford are better at what political consultants call “the values proposition.” That is, when discussing values – hopes, fears, the ineffable stuff of life and death – conservative-minded politicians do better. Progressive politicians get tongue-tied.
A few years ago, for my book Fight the Right, I predicted that the Tea Party movement would take over the Republican Party. And that the Tea Party’s erstwhile leader, Donald Trump, would become a lot more powerful as a result.
Ironically, some Democratic Party thinkers agreed with me.
Stanley B. Greenberg, a US pollster who was married to a Democratic Party congresswoman, noted that “voters are generally turning to conservative and right-wing political parties, most notably in Europe and in Canada.” Why?
Because, he said, voters believe “government operates by the wrong values and rules, for the wrong people and purposes. The people I’ve surveyed believe the government rushes to help the irresponsible, and does little for the responsible.”
Another notable American progressive, Geoffrey Nunberg, agreed. Said he: “The Right is better at values. The Right has a natural advantage, in the modern context, because a lot of the issues they are promoting are emotional issues.” Canadian progressives, like American progressives, Nunberg told me, are basically “clueless” on the values stuff.
Which is why Doug Ford hasn’t really experienced much blowback about his comments on Paul Bernardo’s fate. Because progressives know, deep in their beating (and bleeding) hearts, that anyone who rapes and tortures and murders children on video has forfeited his life. Period.
So, sorry, Mr. Trudeau. Reason over passion is fine.
But Paul Bernardo still deserves an hour in general population.
And most of us would be there to cheer. Passionately.