Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Michael Kinsley on perception and the politics of pain

In the latest edition of Time Magazine, Michael Kinsley writes about the use of character narratives to define a politician rather than the issues and policies they champion.

It's nothing new. I've always said it's largely a personality contest, the reason I use the wrestling analogy.

Everybody Knows the Trouble I've Seen - By MICHAEL KINSLEY
Joe Biden has been a Senator for 36 years. He has vast understanding of constitutional law and foreign affairs, among other topics. But his most important qualification for Vice President is that his wife and daughter were killed and two sons badly injured in a tragic auto accident in 1972. At least that is the impression you get from listening to Barack Obama and other Democrats as they tout Obama's choice for Vice President. By the same standard, Biden's second most important qualification appears to be that in 1988 he suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms.
The piece also went on to discuss the republican nominee, John McCain
...Most voters couldn't tell you a thing about McCain's Senate record. But everyone knows he endured five years in a North Vietnamese prison...
It also discussed Democratic hopeful John Edwards, and how character issues peripheral to the candidate's policy beliefs - in Edward's case, addressing Poverty - can torpedo a campaign.
We all knew two things about him: he (like Biden) lost a child in an automobile accident, and his wife had inoperable cancer. (Now we know a third thing about Edwards, which illustrates the peril of drawing too many conclusions from a candidate's life story as framed by the candidate and his or her campaign.)
It also touched on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. One presumes that if the piece were written a week later it would have heavily featured the character narrative of the newly announced Republican VP nominee, Sarah Palin.

Michael Kinsley's piece underscores what this blog is about, the peripheral cues we use to judge politicians.
For those who aren't political junkies, who don't read political blogs and watch cable news all day. For those who say "Politics is boring" and worry about more fun things like 'going out' or 'watching movies'. Politics can be summed up simpler- It's a popularity contest!...

Its lamentable that politics is the way it is. But it is necessary to be pragmatic about it and see it for what it is. We need to be savvy about what we watch and believe of our politicians and pundits. We need to be aware of the emotional devices and mind games they use to make their constituents do things, often times against their better interests. We need to be aware of the self-delusion, ours and theirs. Just like wrestling, there might be a tendency to enjoy the fireworks but think its all fake. In fact we must do the opposite. Rather than being cynical and dismissive we should explore further into our politicians and pundits and look through the persona to find the real person behind it.
Read the original post here - Why it is a wrestling match?

On the character of Sarah Palin, she was nationally introduced as the 'Hockey Mom', mother of a son about to serve in Iraq and recently a special needs child. In recent days more has come about Palin's character narrative, which some have described as showing how "remarkably unremarkable" she is. Follow the discussion at HotAir.com - Will Palin get helped by the opposition attacks?

No comments: