Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) explained on Tuesday why Democrats find it difficult to animate their grassroots supporters about the Supreme Court. The freshman senator suggested that her fellow party-members are too smart to find common ground with voters. Republicans, she said, merely channel rage to connect with their supporters. At the Bending towards Leadership conference, Hirono told her interlocutor, "One of the things that we Democrats have a really hard time is connecting to people’s hearts instead of here," while motioning toward her head. "We’re really good at shoving out all of the information that touch people here [the head] but not here [the heart]."
"And I have been saying at all of our Democratic Senate retreats we need to speak to the heart, not in a manipulative way, not in a way that brings forward everybody’s fears and resentments, but truly to speak to the heart so that people know that we’re on their side. We have a really hard time doing that," Hirono said. She argued that her party fails to sympathize with voters, because, “We Democrats know so much. That is true. We have to tell everybody how smart we are. So we have a tendency to be very left-brain." She added, "That is not how people make decisions."
Referencing Jonathan Haidt’s book, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," which argues that most people are influenced by an "elephant" of emotion, while the conscious mind is like a rider that rationalizes decisions while on that elephant. "The elephant is making all the decisions. The rider simply explains the elephant’s decisions. Republicans speak to the elephant, Democrats speak to the rider," Hirono said.
Hirono’s perspective appeared to depart from Haidt’s. Haidt did suggest that conservatives have more emotional points to attract voters. However, he did not suggest that Republicans are less intelligent than Democrats. Haidt described five moral foundations that connect to emotion. They are: care, cherishing and protecting people; fairness, rendering justice and not cheating; loyalty to group, family, or nation; authority or respect to tradition and legitimate authority; and sanctity or purity, a right revulsion toward actually disgusting things, the opposite of degradation. While Republicans have emotional contact points on patriotism and authority, according to Haidt, Democrats are more successful in the area of care and fairness.