The St. Helena Star, in their editorial "St. Helena's post-recall meeting was disappointing," says the mayoral recall proponents confronted mayor Galbraith with anger. Galbraith, in contrast, responds with facts. They assume that it's inappropriate, unhealthy, or wrong for residents to emote anger at town halls. They argue that, if only the venue was more comfortable, to make the meeting feel less adversarial, and scripted, by providing the mayor with a list of questions in advance, then fact-based dialogue will ensue and we'll heal our community's gaping wound.
I disagree. I argue that anger, especially in the realm of community politics, is proper and righteous. The Star is correct; the underlying resentment at the heart of the recall wasn't alleviated. This is because people's political beliefs, which reflect ethical and moral sentiments, are not rooted in fact-based dialogue; they are rooted in their emotional attitudes about politics. Emotivism, a meta-ethical theory, allows us to understand how our political beliefs, as extensions of our ethical and moral predispositions, are not rooted in facts; they are rooted in our underlying political emotions and attitudes.
Emotivism is a meta-ethical theory, developed by 20th-century philosophers A. J. Ayer and C.L. Stevenson, which states that one's ethical or moral statements don't express facts or truth values; they express emotions or attitudes about moral situations. Meta-ethics is a branch of ethics, a category of philosophy, aimed at discerning the nature of ethical and moral properties. In contrast to normative ethics, which aims to discern how one should act or behave, meta-ethicists ask, how can one know what's right or wrong?
Peter Saint-Andre, using the boo/hurrah colloquialism, in his 2003 essay entitled, "Political Emotivism" says, "[the] political positions" [of Democrats and Republicans] are the equivalent of 'Boo Bush!' or 'Boo Clinton!' [...] We see no principles, no thought, no reflection ... " In 2018, Trump provides a case in point.
On my podcast, Napa Valley Insurrection, episode entitled "Trump and Emotivism," listenable at https://soundcloud.com/alex-shantz/trump-and-emotivism, I argue that, when Trump makes racist statements, such as all undocumented immigrants are rapists, he isn't expressing a fact or truth value. What he's saying is I don't like undocumented immigrants because they displease me.
Furthermore, when Trump's base says we believe we must build a wall to keep out immigrants, they aren't asserting a political fact or truth value. Trump's base when stripped bare to their philosophical bones is actually saying, we don't like undocumented immigrants, because they scare us, and therefore, we believe it's justified to build a wall. Trump must know something that David Hume discovered during the second millennium. People are motivated by emotions and sentiments, not by facts and reason.
I agree with some of the Star's recommendations for future meetings. As a political philosopher, with a concentration in ethics, law, and politics, and subject expert on this matter, I offer these suggestions.
The Star is right, chairs could be arranged in a circle, to promote feels of inclusion and egalitarianism. I also agree recall proponents should draft a list of narrow questions focused on specific issues. However, I don't think questions should be submitted to the mayor in advance. This enables recall proponents to redirect the mayor, to address their specific points, if he meanders into facts and municipal minutiae.
I also recommend that town hall organizers provide robust translation services, specifically, to ensure Spanish speakers can participate in meetings. A handful of Latina(o) neighbors attended the first town hall; fortunately, a translator volunteered, on site, to translate.
The heart of the matter will not be resolved through fact-based dialogue or de-personalizing the issues -- it'll be resolved through open-hearted, organic discourse. Behind the factual framework people participate in civic engagement due to personal experiences with injustice.
Issues such as skyrocketing rent, rising water rates, hyper-commercialization, and economic inequality are deeply personal issues. Open-hearted discourse doesn't imply a kumbaya circle -- it requires opening ourselves to feeling a range of emotions, from sadness, despair, anger, to hopelessness.
It is proper and righteous for residents to expect their mayor to empathize with the emotions behind their political beliefs. Empathy is a desirable, undervalued leadership characteristic. It's reasonable for the citizenry to demand, from their politicians, an attitude adjustment. Besides, town halls sure beat the alternative solution -- pitchforks and guillotines.