On Being Hated: Politicians, Ethics, and Affect

Sometimes I wonder how politicians like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz must feel knowing that millions of people hate them or dislike them to extreme degrees because of their blatantly hypocritical and inhumane behavior and rhetoric. Anyone who understands how the world actually works–understandings informed by biology, history, psychology, and sociology–is appalled by their behavior.

Politics are at once all about affect (i.e., emotion) and not about affect at all. 

And then I realize that Trump and Cruz don’t care because they have just enough supporters and money to do what they want to do. Trump and Cruz, and many others like them in elected offices, would be glad if you and I died today. Far too often their actions are that heartless and ignorant. Moreover, some people–physiologically–can’t understand why or how others aren’t as successful as them. 

And at the same time I realize that Barack Obama was absolutely hated by millions of people in the United States when he was President of the United States because he has dark skin; because people insist on magical thinking regarding where he was born, regarding what religion he follows (or doesn’t follow), regarding his “true” sexuality and gender and that of First Lady Michelle Obama’s; and because people disagree with the basic worldview of helping other people. I even know of someone who said that he wouldn’t even shake Obama’s hand! As if, in another example of magical thinking, Obama’s essence would destroy him. 

Why is there such hatred in the world of politics? Why are people so afraid of helping others? of someone with Black skin?

I am constantly amazed by the racism that became visible and overt during the Obama years. 

The “hatred” and negative affect in politics really does seem to come down to whether or not we should help other people and whether or not society is, in part, responsible for how people turn out. For more and more of us, the answers are clear–of course we should help people and of course we are products of society and of course nationalism does harm. 

As the forces of Christianity continue to wane in the United States, things will likely continue improving. But it’s a slow process. In ways it’s ironic, and in many ways it’s not, but research across-the-board shows that for most (certainly not all), as their religiosity decreases, their kindness increases. On the other hand, research shows that the more someone goes to church, the less they generally care about helping less privileged and less fortunate people. On the other hand still, the more someone goes to church, the more likely they are to behave violently toward others. On other note–for politicians and for others–the more they invoke aspects of their theology in their promises, the less likely they will actually keep their word.

Any person, especially politicians, will always have people who hate them, but there are times when this extreme dislike is warranted and times when it is based on uninformed or misinformed fear of the Other. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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5 replies

  1. Politics aside, Ted Cruz just creeps me out for some reason.

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  2. Ted Cruz is one of the most disliked by his colleagues in the Senate. Trump is rapidly reaching that state, too, but for different reasons. At least Cruz is predictable and does sound like he is educated. He can debate, for instance, even if he chooses to hide his head in the sand. He appeals to the wealthy because they, for the most part, have had a college education. Trump acts as if he got his college degree by hiring someone to take his exams and write his papers for him, not an uncommon practice in business schools back when he was in college. I do not know if that practice still continues today. I also interpret Trump’s actions and words as those of someone who has always had his mistakes or trouble covered for him, probably because he came from a wealthy family, and thus was too influential to allow to fail. I do not get that impression about Cruz.

    If Cruz had been running for office in a less gerrymandered state, we may never have heard about him at all. I wonder if there is a measurement of the amount of gerrymanderding that turns an election process into one of a mostly dysfunctional state. Is it even quantifiable? It probably is but only with hindsight, and a good idea of what happens with gerrymandering in detail.

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  3. This is mostly true. All three of the politicians you’ve mentioned have had their taste of public wrath, but not necessarily for similar reasons. Seemingly, the mass hatred for Obama had much more to do with his skin color than his politics. I suspect that some people might have claimed to dislike him for political reasons in order to camouflage the fact that they really don’t like him because he is a black man. I always found it interesting how many people could not critique Obama without mentioning that his middle name is of Islamic origin, or the fact that his father was an African man from Kenya. Of course, to avoid committing the fallacy of overgeneralizing, I must add that there were also a few people who genuinely might not have liked Obama for his policies and political ideas.

    I was also disturbed by the way Michelle Obama was treated. Many people tried to test her femininity by claiming she has “masculine features.” Some people even went as far to claim that she resembles a monkey. Hopefully, most people can agree that she has fallen victim to many racist and dehumanizing remarks. But this isn’t surprising considering the long history of the media portraying the black woman to be masculine and undesirable. As for Trump and Cruz, they are the greater evils. Although they have been criticized for their cognitive dissonance and unpopular rhetoric, they’ll never experience and understand the mass hatred that stems from racism.

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