The Politics of Passion

SPECIAL GUEST OP ED | By: Anand Giridharadas (Courtesy of The Ink) | March 06, 2024
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One of the strange dynamics of the Trump era is that, as the right has become, more and more, a movement of passion more than reason, of emotional appeal more than policy solutions, the political left has, as if to be symmetrical, drifted the other way.

Today’s electoral left is highly cerebral. It is suspicious of the politics of passion. It doesn’t do emotional appeals. It doesn’t have much of a role for music, for the body, for in-person communing in public spaces, for catchy slogans, for arresting visuals. The more Trump becomes a carnival barker, the more it seems leaders on the left embrace coming across like the inoffensive heads of state one sees in many European capitals — people who are working very hard not to be interesting, who seem to associate life force in politics with danger. Today’s left seeks to appeal to human beings through a small sliver of all the ways in which human beings take in the world.

If this were an age defined by big policy questions and little else, that would be one thing. But it is an age defined by Big Feelings. By anxiety and fear and future dread and a great confusion among millions of people about who they will be on the far side of head-spinning change. By the emotional crises of men unsettled by a future of gender equality, and of white people unsettled by a future of racial equality, and of young people who know deep down that their parents love them but wonder why they have left them a burning, doomed planet. By the dour vibes of people who know that, on paper, the economy is good, but who cannot shake the feeling that the American dream is a lie. All around us, people are lost, not sure how to make sense of their place in a world of upheaval. In an era such as this, leaving the politics of emotion, of passion, to aspiring autocrats is a dangerous abdication.

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