As if party loyalty and public policy issues weren’t enough of a barrier, consider the personality differences that keep Congressional leaders from finding common ground. Sure, the leaders on Capitol Hill have found a way to stumble along until the next funding crisis threatens a new government shutdown on February 8th. But then, as now, the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are emotionally an uneasy mixture of characters.
The highlights of my facial coding all four of these politicians:
- Mitch McConnell is 10x more negative emotionally than the next most negative person among these leaders (Nancy Pelosi).
- Almost 50% of Pelosi’s emoting involves being alert to danger (surprise and fear).
- Chuck Schumer is at once both the happiest and angriest of these four leaders. Those two approach emotions make him the likeliest wheeler-dealer of the leaders here.
- Paul Ryan and McConnell are 5x more prone to sadness than their Democratic counterparts, so they rarely harbor high hopes.
In depth, let’s start with McConnell. The wily boss of the Senate engenders so little trust across the aisle that Senator Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, uses the same phrase Ronald Reagan used to apply in dealing with America’s arch-enemy, the Russians. “Trust but verify” King says regarding any promises McConnell makes. For his part, who does McConnell trust? Probably no one, as he registers the highest levels of the scorning emotions of contempt and disgust among these four leaders.
For example, does McConnell trust Schumer? Not since 2008, when a Schumer-led Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee funded attack ads accusing the Republican leader of being to blame for the Great Recession. Attacks fit the style of the anger-prone Schumer, whose tendency to feel anger means it accounts for fully 40% of the New Yorker’s emoting.
If there’s any chance of finding some emotional chemistry on Capitol Hill, Schumer and Ryan negotiating with one another might actually be the way to go. They’re the most given to joy of these four leaders, a mark of creative thinking in trying to hammer out compromises. Both of those men also suffer the least from fear, which McConnell and Pelosi have in common to a degree that must make it hard for them to craft bipartisan deals.