Raising the Standard at UGA since 2013.

Leftism Values Emotion Over Reason

Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting site, Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds, Las Vegas Strip, Nevada
Photo by Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz

A weekly column by Ross Dubberly

In an interview with Dr. Charles R. Kessler of the Claremont Institute, Dennis Prager--an intellectual hero of mine--said, “Leftism is feelings-based, much more than reason-based.” In other words, the Left (not liberals, the Left) tends to advocate political positions based on emotion rather than facts, reason, and logic. While that dictum has always made sense to me, never has it rung as true as in the past month in light of the rabid, yet predictable advocacy of gun control measures that has emerged in the aftermath of the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The atrocious and heart-wrenching shooting in Vegas that took the lives of 59 and injured more than 500 people is a nightmare that I cannot even begin to imagine experiencing myself--a fact for which I am most grateful. I read report after report describing what happened that night, and after each one I was bleary-eyed, picturing myself or my loved ones in such a situation, and wondering how someone could commit such a sadistic, evil act.

But now, thanks to the Left, the savagery of the Vegas shooting carries heavy political overtones, as it has been quickly pulled into the political arena. Indeed, with the bullet cartridges still warm, the blood of the victims not yet dry on the ground, the Left immediately began to use the atrocity as a platform from which to preach their religious belief of stricter gun control legislation. While there is perhaps a legitimate debate to be had about specific instruments used by the Vegas gunman, namely, the so-called “bump stock,” we are still, nearly a month later, largely in the dark about what exactly happened on that dreadful night. And therefore, to immediately use the shooting as an opportunity to advocate gun control, it seems to me, is at best imprudent and at worst a hideous attempt at political profiteering. Nevertheless, this is exactly what many on the Left did. That is to say, the Left has attempted to appeal to the hearts, not the minds, of people at a time in which such an appeal would be most effective: a time of great tragedy.

Consider this rather remarkable excerpt from a New York Times article shortly after the shooting:

“Some gun safety advocates acknowledged that expanding background checks would not have prevented the massacre in Las Vegas,” the Times wrote. “Among them was Lori Hankey Haas, whose daughter was wounded in the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007.‘Is there a single policy that would have prevented this particular mass shooting?’ asked Ms. Haas, who is now the Virginia state director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an advocacy group. ‘I doubt it seriously. But that doesn’t mean you don’t try.’”

In other words, the probability--or, if you like, possibility--that no law would have prevented the Vegas shooting should not deter Congress from enacting one anyway. The contents of this quote from Ms. Haas is a clear example of the emotional, as opposed to rational, appeal of Leftism. In any logical or reasonable sense, this statement is absurd. It makes perfect sense, however, as an emotional plea, an outcry for someone--Congress, God, just someone--to do something about this hideous tragedy. It’s cathartic, it feels good to advocate for stricter gun laws, as opposed to those who would advocate we “sit back and do nothing.” But we on the Right understand that you don’t--or at least shouldn’t--make policy based on emotion. If a law is ineffective, or worse, may perhaps do more harm than good, why pass it?

To be sure, I do not doubt that Ms. Haas means well; in fact, I have no reason at all to believe that she has anything but the best intentions in her heart as regards the issue of gun control and gun violence. Nevertheless “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” as they say.

As the Democratic mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, once infamously advised, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” As a Leftist, you must never let an incident pass unpoliticized; you must always have your eyes downfield, must always have the end goal at the forefront of your mind, and never let an opportunity to advance your agenda pass you by. What Emmanuel was speaking to, and what the Left so often does after terrible catastrophes, is the usefulness of demagoguery in the strictest sense of the word, i.e., the use of appeals to human emotion rather than reason. This allows the Left to more easily get the public’s imprimatur--or at least the appearance thereof--and therefore get more momentum behind their agenda.

And, unfortunately, appeals to emotion are much more…well, appealing than ones to reason. But a policy’s appeal, in this context, is, or should be at least, irrelevant; it is rather its efficacy that should be the concern of the public. But, when considering whether or not to pass a law, its efficacy is something the Left doesn’t concern itself with, as evidenced by the positions they take.

For instance, in addition to gun control, take the minimum wage. That raising the minimum wage results in unemployment and/or the closing of businesses is as close to irrefutable as an idea can be in the field of economics. Yet the Left continues to fervently advocate for it. Why? Because it doesn’t matter that doing so will result in people losing their jobs; what matters is that it feels good to be in favor of raising the minimum wage.

In any event, while hearing all of the gun control advocacy in the aftermath of the Vegas slaughter, it has occurred to me that the desire, deep within the human being, to feel good about himself morally and even morally superior to his peers is quite real. And this lust, this emotion if you will, is precisely what Leftism satisfies. Emotion is to Leftism what a foundation is to a house. This is damning considering that, as we all know, emotion clouds judgment. And, as the new wave of gun control homilies demonstrates, judgement is a virtue that is conspicuously absent on the Left. 

—Ross Dubberly is the Book Editor of The Arch Conservative.
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