Emotions and Elections: The American State of Mind in 2012

By Qin Sun Stubis

Majoring in communications two decades ago opened my eyes to a dazzling world of theories and hypotheses that interpret and predict human behavior. All of a sudden, the blink of an eye or a rising speech tone could no longer be ignored and I became aware of subtly embedded messages being sent out from all those around me. At the time, getting an advanced degree in such a field felt like being awarded a diploma from wizard school, having been fitted for life with a wand and a broomstick to fly into people’s minds and understand the hidden things about them.

Since then, my wizardry has failed me many times due to a shortcoming associated with a very volatile human trait that has always intrigued me: Emotion. We, humans are warm-blooded creatures…no, I mean hot, very hot-blooded, and capable of churning up storms of laughter or cyclones of anger at not always predictable places and times. And when our minds are clouded by emotion, our judgment often takes the path of an emotional hurricane, unpredictable, precarious and sometimes disastrous. The more intense our emotions, the less rational our views and actions.

In other words, when our logical senses are compromised by the ups and downs of our emotions, we dwell on how we feel rather than the facts. Sometimes we don’t see even the most obvious thing around us until someone points it out. Further, our emotions often distort what we see and believe, so much so that we don’t always make the best decisions for ourselves.

It’s true that the same emotions that make our species superior can also jeopardize us. We all too often throw ourselves at the mercy of our feelings. When our emotions are riding high, we feel invincible and optimistic; when our emotions run dark, we can become Doomsday disciples. Could this volatility possibly explain the current American state of mind?

With the economic recession showing little hope of ending any time soon and the unemployment rate holding at a stubbornly high level, our worries and frustrations have churned up a lot of negatively charged emotions. Our patience has run out. Our hearts have grown desperate. We want to find a quick fix to our problems and a shortcut to prosperity. As a result, many of us are putting high emotional stakes into this presidential election, hoping to find ourselves a perfect leader.

As for the type of candidate who will win our votes, Americans’ opinions could not be more different: We want someone who is tough on the issues and our adversaries yet gentle and kind to us, someone who knows how to get things done in Washington but is not a “Washington insider,” someone who can keep our country safe yet reduce the nation’s defense spending…we also want someone who is understanding, likable, smart and successful with experiences and beliefs that match our own.

The list goes on and on in this search for a modern-day Moses who can part the waves of our current, turbulent economic sea. Fortunately or unfortunately, the party system has reduced our current choices to just two candidates: Governor Romney and President Obama. Whom will you vote for?

My advice is simple: Don’t get carried away by sweet promises and smiling faces. Set aside emotions and stick to the facts. If rich Americans get to keep more of their earnings, who will really be paying more to make up the shortfall? If we downsize our government to a bare minimum, who will be there for us when calamities strike? After all, we are all vulnerable to disasters, mishaps, and illness.

If you want to fulfill the American dream, vote for a president who has a track record of investing everything he has – his time and his energy, his knowledge and his money – in the principles that have built America.

Before you cast your vote this November, think carefully: Think about America, her future and yours.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com

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