Obama & the Role of Emotion in Politics (Poll)

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One of the arguments I often get into with my Republican friends (and also with my friends who are backing Hillary) is that Obama is all about...well, here's how one of them put it (I'll let you guess if it was a Republican or a Hillary Democrat):

Obama's campaign is just a gauzy message about change and a new politics. What the hell is THAT, exactly? Sounds like a marketing message.

Well, funny you should mention that.

Successful marketing messages are designed to trigger emotions in people. And that idea is so ingrained in our culture that I hardly think it necessary to elaborate further on it. Similarly, arguing pro or con on this is a discussion better left for another day.

Instead, let's stipulate that all presidential campaigns, starting with the very first presidential campaign ever, have always been about triggering emotions. This is simply because emotions move people. Whether that emotion is fear ... or hope... a campaign lives and dies on emotions.

So it should not be a surprise that marketing and politics have gone hand in hand since the beginning of the republic.

Now, don't get me wrong: policies and ideas are crucially important. But this isn't a zero-sum game. Too many candidates think in terms of either-or.

I'm sure you can think of many examples of the candidate who looks down their nose at an opponent who is "nothing but words and speeches." Similarly, we can think of plenty of candidates who deride their opponent for relying on "fuzzy math."

As in all things, moderation is in order. You need a balance of inspiration and ideas. You can't fall into the trap of thinking one is better than the other.

What you MUST recognize, however, is that inspiration comes first -- then intellect. Policies matter, but only insofar as they trigger emotional associations for (or against) a candidate or his/her party.

In other words, a candidate cannot expect a series of whitepapers or policy positions to motivate their followers to vote for them. A campaign must first make an emotional connection with its followers to be successful.

So let's take stock in where we are at this stage of the campaign:

Hillary failed because she discovered (too late) that her substantial policy positions weren't enough to ignite an intense and lasting emotional connection with the electorate. And her (unstated?) assertion of entitlement to the office didn't move enough voters in her direction either.

And if McCain fails to win the White House, it will be because he is neither an idea man nor an inspirational figure at all. He is simply a follower -- a follower of Reagan, a follower of Bush, a follower of party othodoxy, a follower of whatever he thinks it will take to win him the nomination and the election.

You can see it in the way he flip-flops so much. He was for negotiating with Hamas before he was against it, etc. etc.

In summary: if a candidate fails to ignite those emotional fires, people will be apathetic and the candidate will fail because apathetic people do not organize, they do not give money -- and they certainly do not vote.


shep Author Profile Page said:

Ironic, at this point at least, for a Hillary supporter to ignore emotion in the support of a particular politician. The "tell" is that Obama has a record, proposals and many specific goals that he lays out in his campaign (just like Hillary), relative to the general change message. Nothing gauzy about it unless your vision is clouded by emotion.

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