Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Images and impossibilities

Politicians on the campaign trail fish around for "the right" image and this is a much bigger deal in the age of TV than ever.  I broached this in a blog last Thurs (Sep 15) because I was always stumped by how and why the Richard Nixon image worked with voters.

Today's  WSJ includes "Candidates Figure What Voters Need From Them Is a Good Dressing Down ... Hopefuls Embrace 'Campaign Casual' And Roll Up Their Sleeves Only So Far."  It's a fun read and an update on how the image-thing is going these days.  Will Mitt Romney wear the Gap skinny jeans his wife bought when he's next on the campaign trail?

Would James Madison be surprised? I do not know.  I imagine Kenneth Arrow is not surprised.  He did win a Nobel for proving an Impossibility Theorem.  If different voters have different priorities, it is difficult to cobble together a platform that satisfies a majority -- very roughly speaking.

The candidates understand well the difficulties of cobbling together a winning coalition.  We often cite any "charisma".  Charismatic people get way with murder (so to speak) because we relax our due diligence when they walk into the room.  One can more easily cobble together a winning coalition if one can get away with telling different groups what they want to hear, even when there are inconsistencies between the story one tells group A and the version one tells group B.

Get the image right.  (Figure out just how far to roll up sleeves, if a guy.)  Take a shot at charisma.  Blur your stances on issues.  Appeal to group A as well as group B.  Win election.

These guys have read their Ken Arrow.