Foreign &

How Nostalgia Poisons Politics.

Joe Valachi
July 7, 2020 5:15 PM

Do you ever stop and think about the good old days?


Of course you do. Everyone does.  There’s a whole industry based on nostalgia.  It’s called the Walt Disney Company.


However, nostalgia can be dangerous.  Especially, if it is used to mask the problems of society.  


Enter, the world of political nostalgia.  



Nostalgia is a powerful drug.


It is heavily linked to the brain's reward chemical, dopamine.  Essentially, when you feel nostalgic, you’re getting high.  One theory says it’s an evolutionary feature that encourages us to stay near care-givers.  Prehistoric man was much less likely to survive on his own, so his brain was drawing him back to the places where he was nurtured.  


In modern society, manipulating that reward chemical is a great way to make money.  As mentioned before, Disney makes billions selling us the initial memories and then even more cashing in on our nostalgia.  Thousands of other companies also make use of that dopamine reward system to sell us their products.


It’s only natural that it would also be used to sell politicians.



Nostalgia is gold dust in politics.


The most useful thing about it is, instead of getting voters to feel good about a politician, you use something they already feel good about and then associate your candidate with that.


It’s a Three Step Process:

  1. Pick a point in time that everyone agrees was good.
  2. Remind them why it was good.
  3. Blame the other side for making it bad.

When you do that, what you’re really saying is, if the voter votes for the right candidate, then it is possible to relive the good times.  On top of it, you’re associating the other side with standing in the way of those good times.


That kind of association buys more loyalty from voters than a million stump speeches.  And for that reason, in 2020, nostalgia has become a central theme in all major political campaigns.  


However, like everything in politics, it’s got a dark side.  


Political Nostalgia is Destructive.


 The main issue with nostalgia in politics is that it promises something that is impossible while also preventing people from debating the real issues.


First off, no one can ever relive the past and it is impossible to recreate it.  Things change, societies change, politics change, economies change, there’s just noway to bring it back.


On top of that, what happens is that the fantasy then reshapes the debate.  So instead of debating a problem that is solvable, you start trying to figure out which candidate is best to bring everyone back to the past.


If it wasn’t so useless and dangerous, it would be funny.



Trump and Biden show how Useless and Dangerous it is.  


Both of them have made resurrecting the past their main campaign slogan.  Trump’s plan is to Make America Great Again, while Biden has announced his intention to “Restore the Soul of America”.  


The implication from Trump is that America would still be great, and its citizens more prosperous, were it not for the Democrats.  Biden, meanwhile, is insinuating that the partisan divide has taken away the country’s soul and, of course, is all Donald Trump’s fault.  


Unfortunately, they both ignore the fundamental shifts that happened which made the problems in the first place.  


Trump imagines the 50’s and 60’s as his target for a Great America.  Meanwhile, he ignores the fact that changes in economics, logistics, labor, geopolitics, and a thousand other things have made it impossible to go back to that time.  The idea that we can recreate that world is a pipe dream.  


Biden isn't much better. He acts like if he wins, the right will forget their grievances and just go home.  Just as unlikely is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party suddenly falling in love with him.  Biden represents everything that 75% of voters hate about the country.  The odds that someone with that description will “Restore the Soul of America” are…slim.


At the end of the day these guys have both called attention to issues that are important to almost everyone.  Yet, their solution is essentially to wave a magic wand and make everything better that way.



It makes you think about The Lion King (not for the nostalgia).


At the end of that movie, after Simba defeats Scar, we see a time lapse where the land, destroyed by drought and fire, magically comes back to life.


The candidates of this year’s election would have you think that the same thing will happen to the country if you would just elect them.


However, a better analogy would be a zoomed in shot of a bunch of dead lions.  All of them starved to death because they thought a change of leadership would bring more rain.

Do you think Nostalgia is a Big Problem in Politics?

Let us know what you think on social media.
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