Joe Wilson, Repugs and emotional intelligence (or lack thereof)

Joe Wilson’s political opponent Rob Miller in the 2008 election and facing him again in 2010 has so far raised $700,000 to defeat Wilson thanks to the “You lie!” outburst. Wilson has raised $200,000 as of Friday morning from those who support what he claims was an emotional outburst. The outburst may have been strictly a political calculation. This time I chose to believe Joe that his emotions did get the better of him. If so why? The answer is anger and a lack of emotional intelligence, something that is a common factor in all Repugs’ thinking and actions. When their thinking is challenged, they will make personal attacks or cower away by ignoring a human plea.

On anger the Greek scholar and philosopher Aristotle, said, “To get angry is easy. The hard part is getting angry at the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way.”

That wise use of anger takes emotional intelligence the subject of an excellent book by Daniel Goleman in 1999. Goleman found the IQ score of a child does not predict success in life. In fact only 10-20% of high school valedictorians became highly successful in the business world. Emotional intelligence is a far better predictor of success than academic intelligence. C students with strong emotional intelligence had far greater success becoming CEOs and chair of boards.

Interestingly, a Boston Globe article Thursday by staffer Erica Noonan titled “Emotional intelligence’ a new hiring criterion,” underscored Goleman’s thesis. She said, “In this job market, it’s not just who you know, or even what skills you’ve mastered. It’s how well you understand other people that will get you ahead. This is the age of emotional intelligence, often called EQ, and today’s hiring managers want proof you’ve got it.”

Goleman examined what happens emotionally in the human brain that prevents emotional intelligence: The amygdala, or emotional part of the brain developed much earlier than the frontal lobe, the thinking part of the brain. Early humans had more need for the emotions involved in the fight or flight response, “Do I eat him before he eats me, or do I run?” than they were with thinking about a situation before deciding what to do. Our ancient ancestors had to have quick answers if they were to pass their genes on to us. After the thinking part became more developed, the amygdala could still hijack (overpower) the frontal lobe when danger came. This is now called an amygdala hijack and continues to this day.

Goleman has a five-step cure for how to prevent the hijack: 1) Watch yourself and learn to understand your emotions; 2) Find a role model who has a lot of emotional intelligence and study and learn from that person; 3) Notice the signals that tell you a hijack is beginning to take place; 4) Short circuit the hijack as soon as it starts. Learn to say such things as “I’ll think about it;” 5) Forgive yourself if you have a relapse and can’t prevent a hijack.

The Repugs like Wilson are not aware of these steps so they are incapable of using them. It’s mostly not their fault. It is how they were raised and their role models. They were taught to only have empathy for their kind because they were superior to outsiders. The least successful Repugs can feel better about themselves and their inner emotions if they can find someone else their lessers. And a black, young president. That’s soul food for White elders.

Joe Conason in a Friday article had an insight, quite uncommon for Joe, on Republican politicians in his article, “Republican politicians have no empathy,” when he said, “ They only want government to intervene when they suffer personally…” As proof, Joe cited two examples Nancy Reagan and Pete Domenici:

A constricted compassion that arises solely from personal experience has somehow come to seem peculiarly Republican. The most famous examples include former first lady Nancy Reagan’s crusade for stem-cell research and former Sen. Pete Domenici’s campaign for mental-health insurance parity. While both were admirable and courageous efforts that resulted in important legislation, they were cast as narrow exceptions to conservative ideology — exceptions grounded strictly in personal misfortune.”

Both lacked compassion and emotional intelligence until they had direct experience with these illnesses. We’ve seen countless examples on YouTube of this same lack of compassion during Town Hells and throughout debates in congress. The worst War Hawks have never experience war to have accurate inisight and compassion like Chuck Hagel has. He left the Senate because he couldn’t take the lack of compassion and resulting disastrous decisions causing immense suffering and death.

For the twelve years that I taught in Chicago inner-city elementary schools an anti violence, anti-bias, life skills curriculum I developed, I emphasized emotional intelligence and the great power of empathy and forgiveness. I used various activities to show students that empathy, caring and compassion are crucial for a person to be able to get along well with others. A child or animal who has been neglected and devoid of nurturing and human touch will develop a brain that is emotionally crippled and 30% smaller in size than an animal or child that has been nurtured. A three-year-old nurtured child will try to find a way to comfort another crying child. An un-nurtured three-year-old will order the child to stop and may even yell and hit the child. There is zero relationship between IQ and empathy. Children should be taught empathy by example and through discussions about emotions when the child is feeling the emotion. Teaching a child the old Native American belief that a person should not judge another person until they have walked a long time in the other person’s moccasins (shoes), can provide a very important emotional intelligence tool.

Unfortunately, to rid the world of the Joe Wilsons means we have to start with parenting and early childhood education. Chicago public schools don’t do that. Until they do, the violence and shootings will continue unabated no matter how much money is thrown at the problem by Arne Duncan or how many cops are assigned to the schools. Until we do that across America, we will continue to elect Repug thugs, hold Town Hells and stand little chance of reducing polarization and enacting compassionate laws.


  1. cocktailhag says:

    I would add that lack of emotional intelligence is actively encouraged amongst Republicans in several ways, but chiefly through the concept that “bad things happen to bad people.” Thus, people without health care must be lazy, irresponsible, and/or fat; terrorists are evil and must be destroyed by whatever means, and on and on. Just like the three year old hitting a crying child, they are taught to look at suffering as deserved punishment. That is, until it happens to them. Dick Cheney’s support for gay unions is a perfect example; if he didn’t have a lesbian daughter, would he feel that way? The question answers itself. (It never ceases to amaze me that such a monster seems to be a doting father, loyal husband, and have a remarkably close-knit family…. like the mafia, I guess)
    Great post, RMP, on an interesting subject.

    • rmp says:

      Cheney’s lesbian daughter is an excellent example. For his daughter, he accepts her. For LGBT he supports his party’s unfair, relentless attack. He and his party see LGBT as outsiders so they are fair game to whatever happens to them just like those welfare queens who get what they deserve. It is tribal thinking at its most base level.

      • cocktailhag says:

        I would add the Senate Republican’s standing ovation for David “Diapers” Vitter, compared to their loud denunciations of Clinton’s Lewinsky BJ’s. It’s kind of a IOKIYAR that applies to just about everything, and it works for them because their followers haven’t a shred of emotional intelligence themselves. I think Bill O’Reilly is a poster child for this phenomenon. No one’s a bigger blamer of the victim than he, nor so clearly the product of the destructive parenting that made him that way..

  2. The Heel says:

    The Goleman book must have been out earlier than 1999 because I had read it right before I met you. I remember getting it from a dear friend of mine in Germany.

    The book is very interesting to read and was an eye opener for me, too. I remember the story about the kindergarden child that was able to recall perfectly accurate which child in the group likes or dislikes any given other child. That is one example of outstanding emotional intelligence.

    I like the indian proverb you quote: “a person should not judge another person until they have walked a long time in the other person’s moccasins”

    I am afraid I personally violate it all the time when condemning wingnuts and conservatives as evil and retarded. But hey, it is fun… that much for EQ :)

    • rmp says:

      I wrote this not the Hag and we haven’t met although I would like to meet you. You probably are right about when the book came out. I was going by when I wrote the lesson plan after I read the book and watched a Goleman lecture on TV.

      • The Heel says:

        I realized it after I hit the reply button. Your advanced emotional intelligence, will without a doubt allow you to show empathy and forgiveness, right?

        I am in the central coast region of CA (Paso Robles), where are you?

    • cocktailhag says:

      IOKIYD….. It’s ok if you’re drunk. That’s my motto, Heel. Just be careful of sharp objects when you tip over.

  3. timothy3 says:

    For the twelve years that I taught in Chicago inner-city elementary schools an anti violence, anti-bias, life skills curriculum I developed, I emphasized emotional intelligence and the great power of empathy and forgiveness. I used various activities to show students that empathy, caring and compassion are crucial for a person to be able to get along well with others.

    I taught for awhile here in Idaho and, RMP, you would not believe the resistance I faced when I tried to inculcate what I consider to be the basics of human decency. The parents–huh, they were simply furious that their kids might be encouraged to think about the other guy; I was shocked, frankly, at the resistance. There’s this thing about “indoctrination,” that’s somehow dissimilar from “education.” Why that is? Beats me.
    There’s a similar post (by Joe Conason, I think) over at Salon.
    Anyway, good post on an important subject that is typically overlooked.

    • rmp says:

      I had a big advantage over you because whites in the schools where I taught were in the distinct minority, in fact most of the whites were actually offsprings of Appalachian whites from Tennessee and West Virginia who migrated to Chicago when so many coal mines were shut down in the ’50s. The majority of parents were immigrants and refugees.

      What you found in Idaho reflects on my points and it is hard to believe they can be so heartless. I knew many where I was raised in Montana and North Dakota, but I also met salt of the earth people who had great compassion. It would be an interesting study to find out why some people in America’s heartland are able to break away from the tribalism and cruelty and others can’t.

  4. sysprog says:


    [...] Wilson is scheduled to appear on the Sunday morning news [sic] show “Fox News Sunday.”

    [...] After liberal Internet activists turned Miller into a cause celebre in their effort to extract revenge on Wilson, conservatives joined the fray. Wilson, who hired GOP web strategist David All, now has ads running on conservative-leaning web sites such as the Drudge Report.

    [...] Conservatives are pouring contributions into Wilson’s campaign at an astonishing rate.

    Miller, a former Iraq war veteran, has raised more than $1 million for his 2010 rematch with Wilson, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    Republicans expect Wilson to also top more than $1 million by Monday [...]


  5. dirigo says:

    “From 1972 to 1975, Wilson served in the United States Army Reserve, and then as a Staff Judge Advocate in the South Carolina Army National Guard assigned to the 218th Mechanized Infantry Brigade until retiring as a colonel in 2003.”

    Source: Wikipedia

    Wilson made bird colonel in three years? In the reserve and national guard?

    Hey, RMP: How long did it take you to make light colonel?

  6. rmp says:

    Here’s real irony. No doubt he will explain it away if his believers even learn about it.
    Joe Wilson Voted to Provide Taxpayer Money for Illegal Immigrants’ Healthcare

  7. dirigo says:

    I can’t recall ever seeing an outburst like the one from Wilson the other night, during a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress.

    I’d like to know if what Wilson did set a precedent.

    For a long time, I’ve wanted our national leaders to have a regular give and take like the UK’s “Prime Minister’s Questions” – where the P.M. stands among Commons members and answers questions put to him. I’ve watched it for years on C-Span and have always enjoyed it, and have always wondered why we don’t do it.

    I’ve concluded that one reason is a lot of presidents in my lifetime would have been eaten alive in such a format and so it’s never been taken seriously. But talk about a “teachable moment” in our civic life!

    Back to Joe The Big Mouth and his “enablers” on the right side of the aisle, it also looked like those ‘ol boys had it set in their heads that they were going to engage in a demonstration. And they did, with their signs and waving. This was also somewhat of a precedent, more than the usual business of sitting on hands or not applauding.

    They set the tone for Wilson. His outburst was the capper on what I would say was a glimpse of anarchy in the House chamber, certainly an overt sign of disrespect toward the president.

    • rmp says:

      The Dems say it was a precedent and the Rethuglicans say the Dems did similar things with Bush and other presidents. I think you know who likes to lie and greatly exaggerate for their benefit.

      • dirigo says:

        It should not be hard to prove that Wilson’s outburst was a first in such a setting.

        I can’t remember anything like it occurring during a presidential speech to Congress.

        Wilson’s pals want to poo poo it of course; but it’s not a small matter.

        And again, some of the members staged a demonstration of sorts before Wilson blew his cork.