The La Dee Da Theory: Politics Explained

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After attending a July 4th extravaganza by the Dallas Winds at the Meyerson, I went with three others to a restaurant named Toulouse on Knox just north of uptown. (Seven prepositions! Too many?) It offers “French-inspired Belgian cuisine” at upscale prices. For example, their salmon or saumon with two sides is $36, but $16.99 at La Madeleine. Obviously, the upscale sorts don’t use that .99 thing. The croques madame are closer–$21 vs $13.58; that fried egg on a croque monsieur doesn’t seem appetizing to me so the $11.59 means $1.99 for that egg.

The conversation turned to the fact that Toulouse is not a “la-dee-da” restaurant. Pricey but not pretentious, friendly and not pompous. The best French restaurant in Dallas may be The French Room at The Adolphus Hotel. I’ve never been. The question of what the phrase meant was answered first with descriptions—white tablecloths, china, impeccable service. Here is a virtual tour of The French Room. No menus posted on their site that I can find. Perhaps an example of “If you have to ask the price…” but here is one from Foursquare. Salmon with one side is $46. A filet is $65 with two sides, one of which is pomme purée. Technically, that’s a puzzle. A pomme is an apple; potatoes are pommes de terre. I’m taking the dish to be mashed potatoes (a la pomme frites) rather applesauce. Toulouse misspelled haricots verts as hericot vert, but I digress.

The bottom line is that the surroundings don’t make the la-dee-dah-ness. It’s how you’re treated. Once we were invited to an exclusive dining club in Las Colinas. There was a menu without prices because our hosts had to pay. Our friend said, “Of course, order what you want, but the shrimp cocktail is $100.” Which meant I couldn’t order that, but each of us had her or his own waiter. The food arrived on platters with domes. The correct term is cloche, which is French for “bell.” (If you must know, I didn’t know that word until just now.) So the four waiters arrive at our left sides, place the platters, and at the same instant, remove the cloches. It was stunning, and while the food was indeed delicious, I don’t remember what anyone had. That’s what drama will do. And no, the service was not pretentious. Because I’m firmly in the camp of small-r republicans (“of the people, by the people, for the people”), I think not of any of us of higher rank than another. The waiters went home, and so did we. Children of God, which sometimes I do have to repeat when dealing with some of those people.

Now to politics. All this “how they make you feel” made me think of politics. Could the same dynamics be in play? A quotation attributed to Maya Angelou on this topic is much older. Richard Evans included it in his 1971 Quote Book with the originator as Carl W. Buehner, originally from Stuttgart who moved to America and became a leader in my church. His version is easy: “They may forget what you say—they will never forget how you made them feel.” (Do you know about the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine? These incredible resources let you find materials that have been digitized and uploaded—44 million for the former, 835 billion for the latter. You sign up and then “borrow” the book or whatever it is you need. I was able to read and search Evans’ book. Try it!)

It seems that people are more often than not followers, with this theory. They follow people with whom they agree, true, but more essentially with whom they feel understand them. Or at least appear to. In Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, a list of moral foundations forms the basis of his theory of human responses and interactions: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression.

The implications are his but see what you think. Liberals focus on care/harm and fairness/cheating almost exclusively. Conservatives don’t have a single focus but tend to address the first five equally. (Both share liberty/oppression.) The example given in the linked article involves kneeling for the national anthem. Liberals support the act as an expression recognizing the unfairness of prior treatment. Conservatives understand the reason but would be more concerned about both the missing loyalty and the lack of respect for the sanctity of the anthem.

Leaders, then, are preferred for how they reflect these concepts. If one believes that caring for others is central, that may make you feel you can support them if that is important to you. Haidt notes that it’s no accident that we have the Affordable Care Act. This term, four Republics cosponsored the COVID-19 Origin Act. Four Republicans, one Independent, and one Democrat  supported the Fiscal Accountability Through Transparency Act. Two Democrats sponsored the Wounded Warrior Access Act.

As the rhetoric continues to roil, pay attention to what trigger words candidates use that their adherents cheer. Test your reaction. The La Dee Dah Theory took some unnecessary diversions, as usual. One member of our party reminded us of the scene in Annie Hall (1977) when Diane Keaton uses the phrase. Here it’s 30 seconds in. Stay for the crazy drive uptown, squealing brakes and all. If you can’t bear to watch because of Woody Allen, then I’d suggest you are strongly invested in the Care/Harm foundation. If you don’t wince when President Thomas J. Whitmore uses the word “mankind” in Independence Day (1996) with its soaring instrumental background and the ideas of loyalty, liberty, and even sanctity come to mind, you are likely to respond to the allusions if his name.

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