Is the relative boringness of Democratic candidates the determinative factor?

Perhaps this works on all candidates, but it is beginning to become clear to me that one factor, if not the determinative factor, of the success of a Democratic candidate appears to be their perceived boringness. The more boring, the less likely people are to vote for them.

Look at Gore. Everyone knew everything about him already. No new scandals, his positions had been covered ad nauseum. And then there was the way he talked…so dull. He may have been the right candidate – the smartest, the most knowledgeable, with the right plan to lead us into our bright future – but people just couldn’t get interested.

And Kerry. A few scandals long ago in the past, but other than that the man was just kind of dull. He had no mistresses (that we know of) or ethics violations. He was an upstanding man who had an unfortunately boring way of talking. He may have, once again, been the better candidate for leader, but he would tend to drone on if not checked.

Before that was Clinton, who was exciting. It was fun listening to him, and it was also fun for Republicans to tear into him. He had all sorts of scandals attached to him, and it drew people’s attention (even the negative press made him more interesting).

Now it’s Obama, who is Different. Exciting speaker, different color skin, and seems to draw people in. Even the negative press (however incorrect and misguided) seems to make him more interesting and exciting.

So, am I wrong here? Should the Democrats use excitingness of a candidate (including nasty scandals) as a factor in picking candidates for the future?

I’m really not sure what you’re trying to argue here.

It sounds like you’re saying that Democratic candidates that attract interest and get people excited will tend to get more votes.

Isn’t that self-evident?

I don’t know why you are singling out Democrats? Bob Dole was about as exciting as a rain delay.

Yes, charisma is a big factor. Let’s face it: most voters don’t analyze the issues, they go with their gut.

It’s worth noting that Gore won the popular vote. Doesn’t change the election result, but it does cause problems for your argument here.

Yes and no. I think you’re definitely right that the Democratic platform is sometimes at the mercy of having a charismatic and effective spokesperson. For example, the progressive policy framework is laden with appeals to public goods and negative externalities in economics, and more abstract ideas like the rule of law and multilateralism, etc. That makes its message more difficult to encapsulate and defend as compared to demagogic cultural chauvinism or anti-tax mantras, which Republicans typically deploy (even where they might have more intellectual arguments behind their positions).

But I think we’ve got to acknowledge also how much this has been exacerbated by the impoverished state of political discourse, and the media and political establishment. The Republicans have hitherto enjoyed superior advantages in framing their ideas. They’ve spent a lot of time calibrating and evolving their message, forming a movement, and recruiting people for it with tremendous and lucrative incentives. They formed transitionary networks which allowed them to both groom new talent and to disseminate favourable information from their think tanks, advocacy organisations and corporate networks, into cable television and AM radio.

They’ve continually worked the refs to push the media to both cover their views more favourably AND to disparage liberal orthodoxies, (on the basis that the media elite didn’t understand the heartland), whilst all the while moving further right. You just have to look at how liberal Nixon’s policies were in office, to see how they’ve moved the goal posts.

There was also the fact that Gore’s supposed penchant for exaggeration and his less inspiring speaking in 2000, was a convenient, narcissistic target for the media at that time. I’m not saying it wasn’t there, but there is some evidence this was played up significantly. There’s a great rolling stone article about this somewhere:

You mean like Sarah Palin? Admitted Gore and Kerry are not impressive. It’s not easy to find people that are substantive and appealing.

That’s a really interesting article and something that I do think is important (that the media has an inbuilt bias).

I’m not really talking about charisma, however. Of course candidates that have more charisma garner more votes. What I’m trying to put my finger on is the uniqueness of a certain candidate, and that being the major factor in the candidate’s success.

Uniqueness is exciting, it’s different, it gets attention. And I think uniqueness helps democrats win elections more than it helps republicans, since republicans tend to be more conservative in what they want in a candidate.

I think sometimes when democrats play it safe they tend to lose, and when they pick an interesting candidate they tend to win.