For Better Or Worse, Americans Care About Liking Their Politicians
According to Mitt Romney, American voters should care more about the arguments he makes than whether or not they like him as a person. And he’s right. Policy should trump personality. We are electing someone to administrate our national government, not come to our next barbecue.
During the daytime program, he says, there will be “a series of vignettes, so people who attend the convention will get to know me a little better,” but outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, only a devoted C-SPAN viewer will see them. During prime time in the evening, when the broadcast networks are carrying the proceedings and millions of Americans tune in, “we won’t be talking about my life,” he says. “We’ll be talking about policy.”
Ever the business analyst, Romney says it’s more important to make a convincing argument than to put forward a charismatic persona, and that’s what he aims to do. “By and large, this is a campaign about big ideas and a very dramatic choice that America is about to make,” he says.
Sadly, though, Romney is wrong if he thinks Americans are going to care more about his policies than his personality. “This is the Michael Dukakis approach,” writes White House press poll blogger Keith Koffler. “As some of you may remember, Dukakis in 1992 was selling ‘competence.’ It bought him a footnote in history.”
It is almost cliche to talk about dishonest, disagreeable politicians and their propensity for corruption, but who is to blame for putting those politicians in office? After all, cutting through all the campaign commercials and speeches, we’re the ones who cast our ballots for them. We put them in office, and even in times with sky-high levels of dissatisfaction with government, we don’t vote many incumbents out of office. In the 2010 elections, widely seen as a “wave election” bringing great change to Washington DC, just 6 of 33 Senate seats that were up for re-election changed partisan hands. In the House, just 63 seats out of 435 changed hands.
That at a time when national approval numbers for Congress were routinely measured in the single-digits.
The reason for this is apathy. Most voters don’t tune in until just before the election, and even then only superficially, deciding which candidate they “like” more based on what information reaches them through the media’s filters.
This has improved some with the rise of the internet and social media, giving Americans easier access to information about policies and the candidates, but by and large the problem remains.
We aren’t voting for political leaders. We’re voting for celebrities.Tags: election 2012, mitt romney