Electioneering

by Milan Vodicka, Ph.D

I write this on the eve of our California “super Tuesday” elections. After those, there will be other
and other elections. Perhaps I should spell the title of my article “electioneering?” There are
always some elections around us. Have the media something else to cover?

So, who did you vote for? Who will you vote for? How are you deciding who will get your vote?
By what criteria or measures? Do you care? Is it important?

Within these questions is a lifetime (and more) of possible answers and deeds. How do we deal
with this? As we know – or should know – the “reality” of everything does not fit into any verbal
expression. Hence, we simplify.

Examples of simplified models of reality: 1/ However I vote, it does not make a difference.
Therefore, I do not bother to vote. 2/ I am a Republican, therefore I vote for Republicans. I am a
Democrat, therefore I vote for Democrats. 3/ I vote based on a single issue. No pro-choice (or a
pro-life) candidate will ever get my vote. Are you one of those?

Voting, based on a slice of reality, neglecting everything else, is actually commonplace. Let us
keep in mind that we concurrently vote for something and against something. Let us not forget
the properties and perils of the voting system, as we currently have it. Let us be mindful that,
especially on the level of the Presidency, the candidate is not just a standard bearer of some
policies, but also a showcase of individual character.

Here is a small demonstration how the rules of our voting system affect our choice.
Combinatorial logic, if you will. Let us assume a two parties system, as we de facto have it. One
of those two parties primary winner is a person A, the second party primaries winner is B. B won
during the primaries over C. Could C have a better chance to defeat A than B? Aaah, the
“electability” issue! Within the rules of our current system, A against C will never be tested.

For any candidate to be elected, he or she should communicate his/her qualifications for the
office. Should personal character matter? Does the overall context and messaging matter?
Consider the following statement (I read it somewhere): “Who controls the narrative, controls the
nation.”

This is stepping into simplification models as well. Life as communication. Life as marketing. Life
as suffering. Life as whatever…

Nevertheless, with regard to elections, the statement and all its terms are relevant. Let us take
“control” first.

For it, I find it instructive to examine some quotes of the infamous Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s
Nazi regime propaganda minister. Consider some of them: “Propaganda works best when those
who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” “A lie told once
remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.” “It is the absolute right of the
State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” “Think of the press as a great keyboard on
which government can play.” “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless
one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few
points and repeat them over and over.”

It is hard to miss parallels to what is happening for us, and with us, right now. People in the
bubble of their communication channels do not realize they are being manipulated. The
chanting at rallies is the constant repetition. We are hearing many times that climate change is
“a hoax” – along with other “hoaxes” around. Free press is “an enemy of the people.” Only the
power friendly press people can participate… It is all control and about the control.
The last quote relates to the “narrative,” also known as messaging. “Few points” should
emanate from the overall strategy. In business, the strategy is typically formulated in some
mission statement. Clear, concise, comprehensive, congruent. I am repeating (and repeating)
this; it is being taught in basic courses on communicating. Where are you, Democrats?
It is easy to get lost in mazes of complexity. This plan, that plan, who will pay for what, where
the money will come from… and on and on.

All things being equal, it is the simple plan, effectively communicated, that works the best.
Qualifications to do the job. And the character. Get it across to me. This is what I am looking for
– in any candidate, for any elections.

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