ARE VOTERS PERSUADABLE ?

Mayor

^^^ the five faces of Mayor : can you be persuaded or is it all about the default spin ?

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Another way of stating the headline is to ask “do candidates matter ?” Maybe yes, maybe no.

We are living in an age of ideology, where for a critical bloc of voters, the issue is the important thing and never mind, these voters seem to say, the character or qualifications of he or she who advocates that issue. Mr. Trump epitomized this sort of voter mindset. “Yes,” said his supporters, “he’s a bastard, but he is a bastard for us.” Meanwhile, Mr. Biden, for all that nearly everyone recognizes his impeccable character, earns no points thereby among those who backed Mr. Trump.

Myself, I said last year, and still say it : “I’d rather spend four years disagreeing with President Biden than tolerate ten more minutes of Trump.” For me, character matters A LOT.

That’s because as I see it, issues come and go, but the quality of a man is what it is; and quality deals finer with every issue than lack of character with any. A politician sets an example for the nation by who he is, not by what he thinks on this or that issue.

Thus for me, character matters a lot, and whatever I may think on this or that issue, I can be persuaded to change my position by a candidate who makes herself a solid case for a position I did not hold until we discussed.

In other words, I am a persuadable voter. Am I the only one ? I doubt it. I think there are a lot of persuadable voters. The problem is that it takes time to persuade a voter, and most campaigns find themselves unwilling to invest time in doing so. In a Citywide Boston election, there’s likely to be up to 152,000 voters voting. It’s far easier to find the 77,000 (hopefully) who agree with a candidate’s position than the 15,200 or so — rule of thumb says that ten percent of voters can be persuaded — who can be persuaded.

Lesson : Few candidates really care about you or me or our neighbors. They care about majority mathematics.

Ideally, a candidate will work to win a vote one vote at a time — because that is how votes are actually cast : one at a time — but rare indeed is the local campaign in which a candidate actually makes the effort to do that. It’s so much easier, and more efficient, to find out what a polling majority thinks on an issue and go around voicing the majority position in such language as her spin doctors decide the majority will trust. I s it any wonder that voters feel that politicians don’t listen to us ? They don’t.

The individual voter for the most part doesn’t exist and is never campaigned to. That’s especially the case for voters who aren’t selected by a “voter file’ company which selects out voters who aren’t ‘super voters’ or such like. If you’re not a “super voter,” you might as well be deported or dead; the campaign will never mail to you, never phone bank you, never knock on your door.

It’s a vicious circle. You don’t get campaigned to if you aren’t a “super voter,” and not being campaigned to, you are likely to not vote and so become even less “super’ than you were before.

One would like to think that those who run for office actually LIKE people. After all, you’re going to represent people and to work for the betterment of people. Doesn’t it make sense that you should then LIKE people ? Sadly, I have known plenty of candidates who either did NOT like people or did not like campaigning to them. (Worse still are the candidates I have known who didn’t like SOME people, but they are a different case altogether. Let’s leave them aside, which is where they should be.)

Yesterday i chatted with a neighbor, very politically active, who told me of how a candidate he supported was at his house all the time during the campaign, but after the candidate won ? Not a word, not even recognition — a “hi, how are you ?” — when he and the now elected person met at events.

I’d like to think that this is rare, but it isn’t.

Endorsements can be just as worthless. Two days ago an elected in Boston endorsed a Council candidate in language so obviously boiler-plated to him by that candidate’s spin doctors that I belly-laughed — “hey there, ______, you CAN’T be serious !”

Word : if you are going to endorse a candidate, do it in words YOUR OWN, words that can be believed rather than guffawed at.

But of course such default endorsements aren’t intended to persuade. they’re intended to pat the endorser on the back for being “with it.”

This year, the “pat myself on the back” endorsement spin is “equity and inclusion justice.” Or some combination of those trending words. Equity, inclusion, justice. As far as I’m concerned,. when you default to these words you debase them to the level of predictable sand salad. These words used to mean something. Not any more. All they mean now is “hey look at me ! I’m your guy ! See ? I got the lingo, don’t primary me, I’m on your side !”

As for persuasion, you know what gets persuaded by these sorts of campaigns ? That the politicians don’t give two shits about you and don’t even try to pretend that they do.

Guess what a voter who realizes these truths is gonna do ?

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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