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Georgia On My Mind

With the Senate run-off election in Georgia close at hand, Ralph speaks to political psychologist and author of “The Political Brain,” Drew Westen, about how in order to win, the Democratic candidates need to wrap their policy prescriptions in an effective emotional message.

Dr. Drew Westen  is a clinical, personality, and political psychologist and neuroscientist, and Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University. Dr. Westen is the author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation and is the founder of Westen Strategies, a strategic messaging consulting firm. He has advised a range of candidates and organizations, from presidential and congressional campaigns to major progressive organizations to the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses.

“If we (the Democrats) lose this election in Georgia, it’s because we’re not going to pick back up the suburbs. It’s not because we’re going to have low black turnout. Because I think with Raphael Warnock on the ballot and with all the efforts to bring black voters out, I think we’re going to see black voters. But black voters are 30% of the population in of voters Georgia. And if you just do the math, you have to pick up 30% of white voters. And if you don’t bring them out, you don’t target them, if you don’t speak to them, if you don’t speak to their concerns, their interests, their values, their feelings, if you don’t do that, you’re not going to win those elections.”

Dr. Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation”

“(Raphael Warnock should) say, ‘You want to call me a radical? Yeah, I represent the radical ordinary Georgian, the ordinary Georgian who believes you shouldn’t have to have two or three jobs just to put food on the table for your family or just to get by. If you want to have one job and come home at night, be able to be with your kids, be able to help them with their homework, if you’ve got a minimum wage of $8.00 an hour, you’re bringing home 15K a year. Try raising your family on $15K a year.’ That’s the kind of values, emotion-based messaging that I’m describing. It’s not devoid of reason. It’s using reason, but it’s speaking to their values and their interests.”

Dr. Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation”

“This identity politics is killing us everywhere.  It killed us down-ballot everywhere. It is not helping at all in Georgia.”

Dr. Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation”


“It’s not an either/or – minorities or white workers – This is a major tragedy politically for democracy and justice in America… Indiscriminate injustice should be the base of the Democratic Party. It doesn’t matter, in red state/blue state, conservative/liberal; white/African-American, they’re all cheated and ripped off the same way by the insurance companies, by the banks, by corporate crime; by the credit card gougers; by the big landlords.”

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 353 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Don Harris says:

    The Deathocrats are not inept or do not know what to do. If that were the case they would have already accomplished more than they have by accident alone.

    It is by design that they seem inept while actually being very good at their job of providing a false alternative to the Republikillers to prevent a real alternative from gaining power.

    The reason the Deathocrats don’t spend the money on ads on issues that could help them win is because the reason they get the money is because they won’t run ads that could help them win.

    The solution is to not vote for candidates that take the big money and only vote for candidates that run small donor only campaigns as those candidates will be working for people that want them to campaign , run ads and legislate on those issues.

    Basic democracy.

  2. Dave says:

    If there’s somebody who DOES have a right to speak to and about “voters of color” it’s Raphael Warnock!!! All these privileged academic pinheads on this show, on the other hand, maybe not so much (“Probably shorter than you are” – wtf???) Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I’m afraid that now that Biden is president elect, and that Black Lives Matter is actually gaining steam, now they want to stop that side of the conversation… The problem happens when (again, often unfortunately armchair activists) try to speak for and/or down to, and co-opt the plight of others, often for their own gain. That said, I imagine Ralph Nader would be a great debater and agree that indiscriminate injustice is what politicians should be talking about (even if that’s what ultimately did in MLK) – that’s what democracy is about!!

  3. Bruce K. says:

    “The Political Brain” (2007) by Drew Westen was the first neuroscience book that gave me an intuitive understanding of what brain networks lighting up means. The book was fantastic. Much better than “The Political Mind” by George Lakoff which tries to cover the same ideas. What a treat to hear Westen interviewed. Thank you.

    I agree with Ralph in his example message for the voters of Georgia. Give the facts, straight, not in any way that lights up emotion and distracts from thinking. I think Ralph should do the ads for the upcoming George election. I live in CA and whenever I hear ads on radio of TV they are almost always from the Right-wing side of any issue, and they are also always full of lies and misinformation. The Left is completely quiet. It is too hard to maintain focus when confronted by barbarism. The Republicans are tuned perfectly to this barbaric atmosphere they have created, and the Left cannot compete or co-exist.

    What I wonder is why the ads in general are not like Ralph’s example? As Westen pointed out the Republicans used deliberately insulting and inflammatory labelling of “radical Liberal” Raphael Warnock. How does that labelling even work except for the fact that it has been repeated over and over constantly by the Right through its dominance in media. People are symbolically primed and conditioned to have emotional reactions to certain words.

    Why do our media channels allow this type of ad. We are so blinded by the invocation of free speech that we fail to understand it and we don’t even have it anymore – Citizen’s United made sure of that – and no one even talks about it anymore. It is as if Democrats feel they have no right or power to complain about this, or maybe they buy into the Right’s narrative and are really just playing the part of Democrats. I am sure some of them are. Feinstein comes to mind.

    These competing narratives are not debates, or even arguments, they are a war. Republicans absolutely refuse to discuss real issues because discussing things or debating them, or even giving facts or opinions about anything concrete would imply that they believe in democracy and the right of the people to hear, understand, debate and vote on issues. They leave no handhold or crevice for citizens to get any leverage on. Republicans understand that you just get up and name call and derail all discussion, all rationality, and you leverage the emotions and prejudices of your audience in ways that your focus groups tell you will be effective. This requires too much from Democrats unless they are super-human to respond to.

    Republicans do not give an inch in this war, and they mean to win it. There is no status quo or competing vision of the US, it must be the Republican’s way or the highway, and if they lose they accept it and then analyze why and what they need to do to win next time. I just heard Greg Palast on the Peter B. Collins last podcast before Collins retires and he is clear that if all votes in George were counted the Democrats would have won the Senatorial election. The same is true on the national scale. Greg has worked for 20 years just to get a little bump in fixing the massive voter suppression and I think Biden owes his unexpected win in large part to the work that Palast did to put the issue of voter suppression on the map. If anyone deserves the Congressional Medal of Freedom or Time Man Of The Year, it is Palast.

    Republicans have cheated at the national level – and Democrats don’t say a thing, and Republicans take advantage of that by accusing Democrats of doing just what they Republicans have fixing the elections. The docility of the Democrats may be because they know the backers of the Republicans, the same people who give Democrats money can bust the game up any time they want – but no one wants to. Politicians have cushy jobs that given them access to powerful people, jobs, adoring fans, etc. It is a game to most of them. No Democrat has done much of anything Democratic in the last 40 years compared to what the Democratic party used to stand for.

    Democrats have been stymied by this for over 20 years … so is it stupidity, or is it complicity? While I reviewed “The Political Brain” as 5/5 stars when it was out, I see no evidence that Westen has had any effect in improving the messaging of Democrats,despite everyone who is clued in knowing and agreeing that Democratic messaging is absolute crap.

    The bottom line is that when Republicans attack socialism, they are attacking the very idea of government of, by and for the people – democracy, even science and reason – for the average man. Our media is mindless as well to make that seem normal.

    Thomas Frank’s book “The Wrecking Crew” explains it so well. Put loyalists in place, or incompetence – draw the usefulness of government into question, then focus the people’s anger on the incompetent government and tell them it steals their money, and let the Oligarch Libertarians move in behind it to control the bathtub downed government like a puppet, and play the people forever.

    Now the situation is so complex and convoluted that for anyone to communicate to the voters rationally they have to do what is impossible – that is not to hit any one of a million pre-laid landmines of emotion and programming that they all think everyone accepts without question. This is basic psychology experimentation from early 1900’s … put people in isolation and they will follow the herd. If a bunch of planted people in a room say an blue object is red, and an isolated person is asked what color it is … they say red.

    Maybe Westen can just make so much more money working with the system as it is, because it is almost impossible to change it? The message he has is strong, but I have not heard it, and he never finished his phantom second book that I have seen. It was listed in Amazon for a while, but never showed up. Same with Palast – he did the work, had the proof, had the documents, and he got exiled from America for his trouble and it took 20 years just to get Biden elected.

    Democrats have no way to survive in this country if they do not fall under some authoritarian hierarchy and tow the line.

  4. Tom MacDonnell says:

    I haven’t listened to the whole broadcast of 12-12-20, but I will finishing listening tomorrow. Yes, Ralph you got to the point; now you need to awakened yourself to what you said. Stop with the anti-Trump, anti-MacConnell continual diatribe and start talking about issues. Democrats and YOU , who have WAISTED four years of continual and now DOCUMENTED NONSENCE about Russian collusion and Trump’s mishandling of the Co-vid scamdemic, have to start addressing ISSUES. Guess what; that many make a difference !!!

  5. Demetrio says:

    Nader and his guest were right about the negative effect of focusing on identity politics. When you tell whites over and over that everything that happens to so-called people of color is your fault, and that you are privilege even if you are a vagrant or low-income worker is beyond stupid. Equally well said were their points about Hispanics — we don’t see ourselves as people of color (that’s blacks) and we don’t see ourselves as oppressed. On the contrary, we are grateful that the United States has accepted millions and millions of us.

  6. Kris S says:

    If the Democrat party does not reach out to the working class, then Occam’s Razor would suggest it is not the party of the working class.

  7. margaret walsh says:

    good afternoon from SOLSTICE PREP ..

    i e-mailed 157 of 159 Democratic Party County leads in Georgia ..

    i advised them to listen to the Georgia on my mind episode ..

    i have only one indication that anyone got my e-mail ..

    DeKalb County “auto reply” .. we will read your e-mail ..

    157 of 159 because 2 County Leads did not have an e-mail listed ..

    i called those 2 and i left a voicemail ..

    what glared at me ..

    most of these Democratic Party County leads had to use their personal e-mail!!!

    5 or 6 .. from well known counties used “democrat” in their e-mail addresses ..

    most used their own very personal e-mails ..

    each had a l had a phone #listed ..

    probably their home or personal cell phones ..

    the GLARE that SCARED me?

    the Demo Campaign has millions, 10 of millions , 100? millions of dollars ..

    and could not give their County leads a campaign e-mail to use?????

    “the big money message ‘rs do not want a clear winner ..

    they like a “close call” ..

    because they work both sides ..

    thank you for your consideration ..

    P.S. who wrote that article? “the focus on Dominian Voting systems is a decoy .. it is the “ES+??” (the machines used in Kentucky) should be reviewed .. 3 counties recorded more votes than registered voters? McConnell landslide Dem Counties .. ”
    BTW .. the opposition to “mail-in” voting? = “mail-in” votes leave a paper trail!!

  8. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    Ralph could predict the results of these Georgia runoff elections easily if he actually paid any attention to the electoral integrity movement. Georgia has a very insecure election system and elections are stolen by the more right wing there all the time. This year was no exception: the exit polls were way off outside of their margins of error for both Senate races, one of them to a downright cartoonishly fraudulent degree (5.6% outside the margin of error!). The two Democrats would have to increase their vote counts to a massive degree to overcome the fraud if the Republicans were to suppress the vote and flip votes to that extent again (you better believe they will). Here’s what’s going to happen: the Democrats are going to lose, refuse to call for any sort of recount or audit as usual, and their voters will be caught between a rock and hard place where any attempt to scrutinize the election looks like sour grapes after Trump’s own evidence-free assertions of fraud this year (and the media’s dismissal of even the possibility that our elections are insecure). This is what happens when you cede the high ground because you don’t want to be associated with conspiracy theorists.

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