A Very Long Winded Question About Political Psychology

I’ve been wondering what it is in our psyche that attracts us as Americans and I suppose on a higher level as human beings to individuals within the political realm (who are aiming to be our leaders) that are loud and brash while we are also attracted to those who are eloquent and confident in their messaging.

Is the key confidence? Are we just looking subconciously for someone that has the confidence we seek to fill the leadership of the highest offices?

Is the key in rhetoric or delivery or both?

We can look at other leaders that are not Americans such as Vladimir Putin who projects a strongman image and see that such a thing is deeply attractive to the Russian Psyche. But at the same time the strongman projection seems to be working with a large segment of the electorate in primary politics leading to the convention.

But at the same time projection of power is not what led to the election of our last President on a level of style (disregarding policy). It seems that the last election on the level of style was more in regards to eloquence and idealism (projection of hope versus uncertainty & same politics)

Is there a key to this?

Is it possible to strip down voting preference from the level of policy and merely take it down to a level of personality/confidence/delivery of rhetoric?

There is a vast literature on the subject, dating back to the rise of the fascist movement. It’s like asking for a short summary of human emotions.

Perhaps one place to start is with a textbook. Try “The psychology of emotion and politics” by GE Marcus, a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, 2003. It’s a pdf, so I can’t link to it directly, but you can find it on this page in Google Scholar. And the other hits should give you endless amounts to explore.

I think this is better suited to Great Debates than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Are you sure?

Yeah, he wasn’t brash – but he’s got a deeper and louder voice than anyone I can recall him running against, and nobody was going to hang a “low-energy” label on him like Trump did to Jeb – and impressionists throw in a Let Me Be Clear, because he looks you in the eye and tells you where he stands, without hesitation or awkwardness.

He’s not just ‘calm’ confident; he’s ‘forceful’ confident.

How forceful could he have been when he was being identified as an “other” by vast multitudes of people and politicians. He was a radical, socialist, muslim, non-native…Everything he did he was accused of forcing on the american public, when they were actually doing their best to stonewall everything he did, and call it dirty names to boot.

It’s been observed and I agree that he is a really poised thoughtful president, maybe the best we ever had for that. And there is a reason for that. He was being watched very closely.

More forceful than Dukakis. More forceful than Bush senior was that year, too – and more forceful than Jeb Bush was this year – and more forceful than Mondale, who’d been a VP; and more forceful than Edwards, who almost got the chance; and more forceful than Tsongas, but who isn’t? (The answer: Ben Carson. Ben Carson isn’t.)

John Kasich is currently picking up delegates here and there, and he doesn’t seem especially forceful; I’d say he seems less forceful than Mitt Romney did, four years ago, when he (a) picked up more delegates than any other Republican, before (b) coming across as IMHO slightly less forceful than Barack Obama.

And so on. You can apparently run for President without being as forceful as Obama. You can apparently run for President without being half as forceful as Obama. And I’d wrap up with a comment about the debates between Al Gore and Bill Bradley, except I don’t think any of us stayed awake through those.

It goes to our deep social instincts. We’re hard-wired to follow someone who exhibits leadership.

In a civilized society, leadership is partly learned, but it’s also, in large part, foundational individual character. Some people got it, and others don’t.

Confidence, rhetoric, speaking skills – hell, even physical appearance is a big part of it. Michael Dukakis looked weak, and that was not a small part of his defeat.