Political Intelligence

The traits that make or break leaders

The Universal Value of Emotional Intelligence

A high EQ is as vital for the GOP as it is for you and me.

“As above, so below.” Said to be written by the legendary Hermes on the Emerald Tablet some five thousand years ago in ancient Egypt, this is one of the oldest sacred texts known to man. It suggests that everything is a microcosm of everything else. What goes on within you at a personal level is also a reflection of what is going on in society and, indeed, the Universe as a whole. It might sound like a stretch sometimes, but it is, in fact, a good way of understanding many things in life, from psychology to physics to politics. Right now, a lot of minds are focused on the world of politics in the US, with the Presidential race coming up, and it is interesting to see how the evolution that various political parties go through mirrors our own growth on a personal level. Take the issue of emotional intelligence: We all have some degree of it, but continually growing it is a life long pursuit. A higher EQ means we are better able to connect with others, through a combination of self awareness and sensitivity to others’ feelings. This makes us more effective in many aspects of life. Indeed, as I have written before, a higher EQ is a far better predictor of success in life than straight forward IQ. 

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This is an evolution that all political parties go through as well, and this week the need for this in the GOP at the moment was starkly articulated by one of its leading figures, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush. "Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad—they would have a hard time in… the Republican party [of today]”

Emotional intelligence is about being sensitive to the person across the table, and so a consequence is often being able to find common ground, even at times where there is significant disagreement. This is the same struggle that we all face when learning from each other or discussing or negotiating highly charged issues. This is equally true of every marriage, business, friendship or partnership of any kind. By stretching to accommodate each other, we grow together. Over time, whether we like it or not, this is the only alternative to shrinking emotionally and ultimately perishing into isolation. Life presents us with challenges of this nature to keep us growing. For a political party, its own survival is dependant on its ability to stretch itself in this way. The Republicans are currently in a transitionary phase. The part of it that shuns the very notion of compromise is dominant - the reactions to Jeb Bush's statement are clear evidence of this - he has now been officially labeled a RINO - Republican In Name Only. But this strand of his party does a great disservice, not just to the GOP, but to the whole country. A vibrant, engaged party of the right is vital for spirited debate and imaginative, balanced policy.

The good news, though, is that the high EQ Republican Party still remains strong, as personified by the likes of Jo Scarborough, who together with several past and present leaders, represent the party’s high EQ wing. And it is ultimately this wing of the party that represents its future. Jeb Bush himself said that he views this hyper-partisan atmosphere as "temporary." 

Indeed, the only way their party has a future, in the long run, is if they return to the kind of openness to compromise and working together that they had under the leadership of Jeb's father and his predecessor. One way or another, therefore, a re-expansion in the GOP's collective EQ is inevitable at some point in the future. The only question, though, is when this might occur. For the sake of the party and, indeed, the country, let's hope it’s not too far off.

 

Russell Razzaque, M.D. is a British psychiatrist and author of Obama Karma: Lessons on Living Inspired by the 44th President.

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