Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's Likability Stupid!

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."  This nugget of psychology, often attributed to Abraham Maslow, is particularly relevant to today's politics.

Two cases in particular:  

On one side is all the conservative hand-wringing over Mitt Romney's apparent victory in the GOP primary.  Conservative analysts are almost unanimous in their disdain for Mitt Romney claiming he is not a "real conservative" and will certainly lose a general election like other "moderates" John McCain, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole. 

In the telling of these analysts, Ronald Reagan's victories were all about ideology and contrast.  According to them, the American people got all analytical, just like them, and carefully weighed the policies of the candidates.  In the end, after all the analysis, they were won over by the sensible, logical conservative policies of Ronald Reagan.  Bunk.  

Reagan got elected because the American people liked him.  If ideology and contrast were the winning formula, Barry Goldwater would have been President too!  

On the other side, Barack Obama is making a similar error.  He got elected in 2008 because the American people liked him, not because they liked divisive rhetoric and class warfare.  Yet, with a dismal record on the economy, a long line of broken promises, low polls on ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and foreign policy, his campaign is entirely based on three negative emotions: hate, envy and guilt. 

According to Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals", which is Obama's tactical bible: 
If the organizer begins with an affirmation of love for people, he promptly turns everyone off. If, on the other hand, he begins with a denunciation of exploiting employers, slum landlords, police shakedowns, gouging merchants, he is inside their experience and they accept him. 
Electoral politics is different from Community Organizing, and Obama may be squandering the one thing he had going for him, likability.  

The 2012 race will ultimately come down to a contest between two men who will fight it out, not on some ideological battlefield contesting the brains of voters, but rather the way it's always been done: over hearts.  

It's likability stupid!