April 24, 2013

Everything We Know About Elections Is Wrong,
Second Movement

Hatched by Dafydd

What's cool anyway?

It cannot be defined so easily, because coolness can be neither measured nor contained: A charismatic candidate will shift the very definition of "cool." Reagan turned big government into a pejorative, and he turned tax cuts and a beefy national defense into cool new ideas; but more recently, Barack "Limitless" Obama turned Americans in exactly the opposite direction, towards the coolness of being welfare kings and queens, being cruel and atomized, and being politically apathetic (except when "protest" morphs into a political rave).

The policies did not make Reagan and Obama cool; these winning candidates made the policies cool, simply by association with themselves. The coolness of a cool candidate rubs off on his programs almost as an afterthought.

Reagan's magic formula

So what makes a candidate cool in the first place? How did Reagan sell America on such a major transformation in 1980? Much as it pains me, a Spockian (and the innovator of the Spockian-Bonesian axis of emotion and logic in the first place, many years ago*), Reagan's primary method of converting voters to Reaganism and Reaganomics was not logical argument.

Most people cannot be persuaded or converted by logic or reason alone. Reagan himself said something to that effect: You can't logically argue a man out of a position he wasn't logically argued into in the first place.

So Reagan perfected a brilliant technique:

  1. First, convert the voter emotionally, passionately.
  2. Then once converted, give him the underlying logic to retroactively justify his conversion.

Converting in this order is vital. All the brilliant logical arguments in the world will not suffice to convert the average voter from A to B. But after first being converted by raw, seething emotion, by passion, by a transcendent vision, then even the easiest logic will keep him in your camp forever: The convert is looking for any excuse to agree with you. ("Reagan Democrats" are best evidence of this proposition.)

To win elections, you first must be able to "win friends and influence people." When folks like you, they'll be hugely more receptive to anything you have to say.


* From a piece I posted on a bulletin board on January 23rd, 2003:

A while back, I came up with a sceme to describe different personality types -- another one of those axes with one extreme at one end, another at the other, and every person falling somewhere along the axis.

At the extreme left edge are the "Bonesians;" at the extreme right are the "Spockians;" and in the center is the "Kirkian Mean."

The vast majority of folks fall on the Bonesian side of the axis: they relate on an emotional level better than on an intellectual level; emotional arguments are more convincing to them that logical arguments; they empathize with others, they are good at comforting, they enjoy socializing -- and in social settings, they don't want to talk about controversial or "argumentative" subjects.

At the opposite end are the Spockians, who are much fewer in number than the Bonesians. Spockians are very uncomfortable with emotional displays, arguments, or situations. They do not empathize with others, they are not quick to offer sympathy. But they are better at intellectual type arguments; they understand logic; they actually enjoy discussing controversial topics and eagerly accept counterarguments, so long as the ripostes are also intellectual, not emotional, in character.

Obviously, both sides have strengths and weaknesses; the Kirkian Mean combines the best of both: Captain Kirk can move either left to empathize and understand the emotional component of a problem, or right to grasp the logical complexities and difficulties.

I like to describe it like this: You want your priest to be a Bonesian and your cardiac surgeon to be a Spockian, and your family doctor had better reside at the Kirkian Mean!

Spockians think Bonesians are intellectual lightweights. Bonesians think Spockians are cold-hearted stonefaces. People are what they are, but it's always a good idea for Spockians to try to understand to the left and Bonesians to understand to the right.

But here's the "big but": Bonesians are so numerous, they rarely encounter a Spockian. They can live their lives while seduously avoiding all Spockians. Whereas the Spockians are surrounded by Bonesians and can't help bumping into them. Thus, usually Spockians have more experience of Bonesians than vice versa. To a Bonesian, a Spockians is more or less an "alien" (Gene Roddenberry wonderfully understood this in Star Trek), and the Bonesian is either frightened, angered, or repelled by him. No matter how Spockians feel, however, and unlike their counterparts, they are compelled by circumstances to deal with a lot of Bonesians.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2013, at the time of 2:12 PM


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