When Politics Met Psychology

By admin ~ August 6th, 2012 @ 11:48 am

I was having an early breakfast at the InterContinental Hotel in New York several years ago. In the sunny upper floor breakfast room, a group of high powered strategists, all women, set at the next table. I had suffered with recent political decisions and was dismayed by the current voting trends. I stopped by the womens’ table to offer my services as a psychotherapist, gave them my resume and suggested I could be helpful with campaign strategy.

An impressive woman with steel gray hair and a dark suit turned to me and asked me if I minded answering a question. I replied I was happy to assist. She proudly introduced Nancy Pelosi, then Representative Pelosi… not yet our first woman Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi turned to me with her dark intense eyes sparkling, and asked me if I thought Hillary Clinton could be the next President of the United States.

I gulped. This was my opportunity to be a feminist, to be supportive and cast a vote for all women. For every male joke, violent act or domination that had gone too far, I wanted to help even the playing field. I wanted to join the well-heeled city womens’ discussion, to be part of the shakers and movers, to make a difference in the lives of millions by just one vote, to challenge the stupidity and cronyism in Washington, and to use my mind to defeat cruelty and prejudice. I wanted to say, ” Absolutely yes, Hillary will be a great President.”

Then, I thought about the men that I had grown up with in Central Illinois. I could imagine them on the cafe stools in coffee shops, at Maid-Rites hamburger counters, and luncheonettes. They spoke of the mines, local gossip and traditions. Voting for a female President would be inconceivable to the kind of men I had known there. As I traveled the country over the years, I saw shunning and ridicule, designed to humiliate and discourage women who struggled for equality from competitive, threatened men who believed in their own entitlement. I have counseled thousands of people. No matter what these men might say in public, in the private voting booth they will vote for their own kind, every time.

The womens’ faces fell as I replied “No, not yet.” The undercurrent of chauvinism and prejudice has not left, but merely submerged in too many older voters, I explained. However, that was five years ago. What about now?

We were all programmed in prejudice before the powerful sixties broke apart old norms and stigmatization. Those who survived the sixties are old enough to take over the responsibility and carry the torch of freedom. But who actually goes to the polls? Not the college kids or Gore would have been a clear winner. Not the angry old hippies or Kerry would have been a shoe-in.

Younger men and women have friends of varied race, sexual preference and gender. The older people still stick to their own, often fearful of the unknown. The ones standing in line to vote are the same ones who are sitting on the cafe stools wearing Caterpillar or John Deer caps. They value their votes and they make the effort to vote. But they vote with their mindset from the 1950’s and that is how elections have been easily manipulated by scaring traditional voters with words like Gay, abortion or scientific cloning.

What about the new kind of man who has emerged in our society? This variety of man was raised by strong women with more freedom and who was himself more free to be an original, rather than a carbon copy. He is confident in himself rather than a role, like the man I married. A man who could openly embrace his child, listen to an intelligent women on television speak about important topics or be proud of a wife who earned big bucks? Could this consciousness-raised gentle man vote for a woman? Does he vote?

If women and gentle men voted, what happened to Kerry when he ran for office? He was a loving Dad, his wife was a dynamic leader and role model, but he lost, even with the following statistics:

Kerry-Edwards is preferred over Bush-Cheney among voters 18-29 years of age (59%-37%); 65 and older (49%-46%); women (52%- 42%); and singles (62%-26%). (Zogby.com)

Look at this statistic and see who made the win for GWB. “Bush-Cheney is favored among voters 50-64 years of age (49%-46%); men (50%-43%); and married couples (53%-42%).” (Zogby.com). Baby boomer men showed their muscle in the 2004 election, and voted for wise cracking George Bush, with whom it would be cool to have a beer. They voted for their own kind, one of the boys. Now, our tattered country is struggling and needs a grown-up, a leader.

What will happen in this rapidly approaching election in 2008?

“While she is winning wide support in nationwide samples among Democrats in the race for their party’s presidential nomination, half of likely voters nationwide said they would never vote for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows… reported survey of 9,718 likely voters nationwide showed that 50% said Clinton would never get their presidential vote. This is up from 46% who said they could never vote for Clinton in a Zogby International telephone survey conducted in early March. Older voters are most resistant to Clinton-59% of those age 65 and older said they would never vote for the New York senator, but she is much more acceptable to younger voters: 42% of those age 18-29 said they would never vote for Clinton for President.” bbsnews.

Over half of the 18-29 year-olds would vote for Hillary… but do they vote? Do they get up early in the morning, stand in wet and snow for hours to make their one vote. Young people made a lot of noise last election, but they did not “turn out” on election day when it mattered. Older voters do “turn out” and 59% say they are not leaning toward Hillary. Can America afford to keep the same ole’ game?

Historically, people do exactly what they did last time and will do again next time. What can sway the people out of their comfort zone into a new way of thinking? Perhaps change is too difficult for heavily brain washed people who are fifty-five and older. After eight years of tortuous political fiasco and the deaths of so many people will likely voters elect another Baby Boomer white male with a touch of gray and a $1000 suit and cling to the perception of what an American president looks like or can we do something new, fresh and perhaps, smart?

Are there enough people who are younger and less programmed to escape the belief that Presidents are white males because…. they just are? And this time, will they actually take responsibility as an American and vote?

I have changed since Representative Pelosi and I met in that high rise breakfast room. Today, I think it is possible for the United States to elect an African American, a Latino, or a woman. We all may have evolved enough to look past the outside color and gender of a contender for the most powerful position in the world and see instead the capability and leadership within the person that the world so desperately needs.

I think it would please Nancy if she knew that she was talking to a Baby Boomer who loves Maid Rites and has a Caterpillar cap and could and will vote for any one of them.

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