THE BLOG

Politics and the Dangerous Psychology of Hate

05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

When someone is desperate, they go to extremes. It's a psychological survival tactic. Like when someone first hears a cancer diagnosis, and they pray to God, promising they'll do anything if only the cancer would go away.

In both the individual and society, desperation is driven by fear. And fear and low self esteem make up the root system of discrimination. There are millions of Americans who were already fearful enough in their lives to have become discriminatory of gender, race and sexual orientation; and now those fears have been sharpened into a knife of hatred by our vulnerable economy.

If what someone has been relying on to feel better about themselves is a belief that they're better than women, African Americans and homosexuals, what does that person do when their world turns upside down and an African American becomes their President? And women continue to want control over their reproductive rights? And gays want to live without bias?

Their desperation is driven outward into society.

When Republican leaders incite further fear in communities with these beliefs systems by inaccurately labeling Obama as totalitarian, as recently occurred for example with Rep. Nunes, they take great risks.

Consider the dynamic of the Weimar Republic. When people feel as though they are lesser, they crave a sense of belonging and leadership -- at almost any cost. All they want is relief from whatever they feel is causing their oppression, and if they're offered a sense of belonging in hatred and racism by leaders, their fear is legitimized and gains momentum.

When this happens, moderates must step in to help more rational heads prevail. They must offer leadership that's driven by a desire to transform hate into a more productive force for both the individual and society.

Those who govern can promote healing or hate. It's the psychological difference between pouring water or gasoline on a fire, and sometimes, these psychological fires become sociopolitical ones capable of extinguishing moderation.

Moderates: take care not to be complicit in having your party, as you once knew it, pulled out from under you. The hatred you're helping foment won't have an expiration date. It will be capable of lasting far beyond your short-term political use of it, and you may end up with bigger tea stains on the fabric of your country than you're prepared for.