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Issues vs. Emotions/Character - King Rat
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Issues vs. Emotions/Character
One of the things I find curious is how much people vote on emotional impression. Since people have figured out I am nearly undecided, I've had a bunch of folks try to convince me, mostly to vote for Obama. Almost every single one of those appeals been an appeal to vote for him because of the kind of person they believe him to be.

I don't vote that way, not for the most part. I won't even bother to consider Lyndon LaRouche's positions because he's just a nutjob. And I will consider hypocrisy and lying. 90% of what I am looking for is their position on issues, and their record.

I believe that voting for someone because of our emotional impressions of their character as viewed through the lens of the media and campaign is a bad idea. That's the sort of thing that got us George W. Bush in office. He was personable. He wasn't smart, but would surround himself with smart people. He was likable. Al Gore was a liar. He was wooden. He was too triangulating. That's what made the race close enough to be decided in the Supreme Court. Never mind that Bush's tax plan didn't add up. Never mind that Al Gore knew what he was talking about regarding global warming.

Something similar is going on this year. McCain is a straight-talker. Clinton is too emotional. Clinton is too cold. Clinton is too ambitious. Obama is inspiring. Obama cares.

Again, I say "no." What are their positions? How will they implement them? Are they correct? Will their policies work? Will they work better than their opponents? What is their record?

At this point, I have Clinton up on health care big, and Obama up on Iraq (barely) and technology. I have Obama down on gay rights. Sadly, neither has a stellar record here, but Clinton's is less far down. At least both have staked positions that are an improvement from the last 8 years. I have immigration and education as a wash between the two. There are plenty more issues I care about, but I haven't enough time to read up on all of them unfortunately.

Here's the thing, it took me a fair amount of effort to go look up all those positions. It's much harder to go find out information instead of sucking in what's fed to us through the media. The debates have been the best thing of the campaign so far in the media. But even there, a candidate has time that is too limited to elaborate on their positions.

Anyhoo, I think the character approach is the wrong approach to selection an officeholder, for the most part.

Also, so far I'd be okay with either Clinton or Obama in the White House. At least I'd take either of them over McCain or Huckabee.
14 comments or Leave a comment
evillinn From: evillinn Date: February 9th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
What do you have to say about the notion that Clinton is too polarizing? That is the worry I have today.
gkr From: gkr Date: February 9th, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
What do you mean exactly by "polarizing" ? That she can't be elected? That no one will listen to her when she's president?

On definite point, Obama is new, Clinton is not. Obama has been visible in national politics only since 2004. Clinton since 1992 when her husband ran for President. There's been a huge amount of time for her "negatives" to build up. But rest assured, Obama's will as well.
evillinn From: evillinn Date: February 9th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
I fear the swing vote will go for McCain in order to vote against Clinton.
gkr From: gkr Date: February 9th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's certainly possible that will be the case. There's no good way to tell. Polls on Obama vs. McCain and Clinton vs. McCain haven't been consistent. In addition, the publics perception of their character will likely change in the course of the campaign.

I refuse to play that game. Everyone else plays that game. I haven't seen any evidence that it gives us better candidates or better officeholders.

In the end, we get the Presidents we deserve, whatever way we select.
From: amare Date: February 9th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is my concern too. I feel that I would be just as happy with either Clinton or Obama in office and I worry that because Clinton has history and because enough of it is negative to cause people to potentially want to vote against her Clinton as the democratic candidate would mean that neither of them will end up in the white house.

The problem is that while it would be preferable to vote for candidates based on their issues, the majority of the people seem vote for their perception as you say. So if your priority is Not The Other Guys, then how do you most make your vote count if that is important to you? If the candidate that you most prefer with regard to the issues is also the candidate who seems most likely to drive away swing voters how do you choose?

I don't like the game of voting against the other party and the only way to stop that game from happening is to vote the way you really believe and try to convince other people to do the same, but unless you really succeed at that (and it'd take a massive educational campaign to achieve it) you run the risk of weakening the party you prefer.
stryper666 From: stryper666 Date: February 9th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like how Obama has run his campaign, in that he (supposedly) hasn't taken any contributions from lobbyists. I feel a person that will do this, will not be bogged down by lobbyist conformity or pressure once in the White House..

Other than that, it's all about which message you believe in...
gkr From: gkr Date: February 9th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the latter is true. Except I think most people are looking at the wrong messages, those related to supposed judgments about character.

I think that's wrong. It's certainly the wrong way to try to convince me. Which is why I think it's curious that people try to convince me with them.

I listened to a girl at a coffee shop talk about how she was going to vote for Ron Paul because he seemed real and genuine. I don't think she even knew that the man wants to bring back the gold standard, which would be an absolute disaster economically. That's a pretty clear-cut case where ignoring issues in favor of character would result in a bad decision, just like 2000 was. It's less clear between Obama and Clinton, but I think that's a game that I'd just rather not play at all.
stryper666 From: stryper666 Date: February 9th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wasn't trying to convince you.
burgunder From: burgunder Date: February 9th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree about the emotional voting. My first election, my vote was based entirely on how I "felt" about the candidates.

I think there's a curve for a lot of people that begins 100% emotional vote and eventually evolves to an issues vote. I'd say I'm maybe 30% political and 70% emotional at this point.
laurelfan From: laurelfan Date: February 9th, 2008 06:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think you're confusing personality and character

There's surface personality, which is the "likable, emotional, etc..." that I think you're referring to.

But then there's also character -- their actual beliefs about the issues, about where the country should be going, something that gives coherence and consistency to their policy decisions. This is reflected in their actions -- voting records, health care plans, etc -- which certainly have to be considered when you're trying to figure out someone's character.

I'm still undecided too, but what I know about Obama's character/worldview (a lot of it is from reading his first book, Dreams from My Father)
nplusm From: nplusm Date: February 9th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

I don't believe them

I don't believe candidates will act as they have promised in elections. I have too often seen post election "mind changin'" to put faith in a candidate's promises, especially when it goes counter to the minds of their contributors. As a result, what I need to bank on is that the person is a "good person", that they will balk at injustice even when it costs them campaign dollars. I don't expect an angel to ascend the white house, but I do try to discern which candidate actually has some idea of what the American public need...instead of being ruled by campaign donations.
gkr From: gkr Date: February 9th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I don't believe them

I do look at whether a politician followed through on past promises, or changed their mind after the fact and did something worse or better. Their record is fair game. I think that's a better proxy for whether they are a good officeholder. I.e., does this person have a consistent record of protecting the environment? I just don't believe I am a good judge of whether someone is "good." Do you think you are a good judge of whether a person is "good", particularly based on their public persona? As Deirdre wrote, a good showman can do this very well. I think most Americans are pretty shitty judges of character, even up close and personal.
turtlegrrl13 From: turtlegrrl13 Date: February 9th, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am having the same problem. I have been avoiding reading anyone's opinions right now until I have a moment to look up what there positions are and what they want to do.
faerieburst From: faerieburst Date: February 10th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Diplomacy is part of the job. That's largely determined by one's personality and ability to interact with people. How can that *not* count?

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