Spring has sprung, summer is coming and it's an election season! Time for evening walks, cookouts and social media Hitler comparisons. Yesterday was primary voting and the results are confirming that this election cycle is a unique one. Both parties are divided and it looks like the choices are a vacation to Detroit or a vacation to Somalia (depending of course on which side of the political spectrum you stand).
Through all of this, I am reminded of one man, Warren G.
My favorite president, Warren G. Harding. When Democrats say, "George W. Bush was the worst president in U.S. History." and Republicans say, "Obummer is the worst president ever!" All I can think is, "Where is your sense of history?"
Harding started his path into our history books rather accidently. He was a newspaper editor out of Ohio who was running for election into state senate when he met a man named Harry Daugherty while they were both getting their shoes shined. Daugherty was a shrewd political tactician who was taken aback by Harding's striking appearance. Harding's proportions, aesthetics and demeanor were oozing with charisma and appeal, at least to Daugherty. "Wouldn't that man make a great president?" was Harry's initial thought.
Harding loved drinking, golfing, poker and women. Lots of women. As he rose through the political ranks he was vague and ambivalent about his specific policies. His speeches were described as "An army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search for an idea." The man was as dumb as a bag of rocks. None of this apparently mattered to the Ohio voters. He moved steadily up the political ladder based on Daugherty's hunch that voters would view Harding in the same light that he did. He knew that people merely had to SEE Harding and hear his large, rumbling voice to get on board, despite whatever vapid drivel that voice was espousing.
This is what Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Blink" describes as "thin slicing". The idea that people make decisions based on a very short and initial first impression of an individual. Most people operate this way and make their judgements about people based entirely on instinct. So, should we trust our instincts even when given logical evidence to the contrary?
Let's put it this way, Harding was such a bad president that his living legacy is the Term "Warren G. Harding Error" based on his disastrous presidency. You pull a Warren G. Harding Error whenever your initial impression of a person is way off the mark.
We would like to think that we are so much more sophisticated than we were in 1920 but if that's true then why the hell is Donald Trump the Republican nominee? This blog won't be an exercise in mindlessly bashing Trump, there's already enough of that vitriol out there and besides, part of his strategy is getting your to react to him. (The reason why Marilyn Manson had a career)
Donald Trump is not what most people would consider "handsome" or "aesthetic" No, he's a Warren G. Harding for the new millenia. Trump's image is one of success and power. We all at some level want success and power and he displays those qualities like a narcissistic peacock. When many people are low on the economic ladder and frustrated with the existing system, Trump has a strange appeal. (Note that we are talking about the general population who thin slices, not you as an individual you sophisticated political savant) You can't just call him an idiot and dismiss him, that was his strategy all along. An idiot wouldn't be able to maneuver himself into such a position. No, Donald Trump is a huckster. Remember that scene at the end of Wolf of Wallstreet? "Sell me this pen." Trump can sell that pen to some poor schmuck, believe you me.
Trump is a buffoon for sure. Uninformed to boot and carries to me some of the least appealing qualities you can have as a person. So, who's voting for him? The people who thin sliced him and liked what they saw. He was entertaining, he wasn't following the usual political rules. He embodies the idea of "no such thing as bad publicity". He got people on board and those people will not drop their support no matter what comes out about him. You can put a mic to his gaw and have him say the most outlandish, incorrect statements and he will barely be affected politically. They found their guy and anybody who tries to convince them otherwise is a Libtard who's part of the Lamestream media.
It's truly fascinating to me. This video from a guy I like called "The Nerdwriter" is a must watch:
Believe it or not, you share this country with people who think that he's speaking truth to power. They will vote for him no matter what happens between now and Super Tuesday. What will you do about it?
My friends on the other side of the political spectrum are not immune to thin slicing.
I have two friends on my Facebook friends list who have never doubted Hillary Clinton, at least based on their reposts.
While the vast majority of my friends were open-minded, straight-up Bernie Sanders supporters or weighing interesting articles on both Clinton and Sanders it seems that these two people had their minds firmly made up months ago. As scandal after scandal arose and the tenuous ties between Hillary and Wall street bankers came to light their belief in Hillary held firm and was unshakable. From posting disparaging Bernie Sanders articles to equating Bernie Sanders supporters to whiny children these two individuals weren't moving from their stance.
They are both very intelligent, middle aged Liberal women. Now, I just may happen to not have any male hardcore Hillary supporters as friends and I will take that into account. I don't think I would be far off the mark however to say that they waited their entire lives to see a women like Hillary Clinton get the presidency and nothing was going to stop that from happening for them.
Now that it seems like Bernie is out, we are faced with the current situation as it stands. Clinton vs. Trump. How did we get here? Well, as much as people are saying that America is becoming Idiocracy I think that the more things change the more they stay the same. We are still thin slicing candidates and voting with our eyes and our gut instinct and as a whole ignoring useful information. This is a big mistake to make in 2016 with all the tools that we have at our disposal that 1920's America didn't have.
I like Bernie Sanders, I really do but I was also guilty of thin slicing the guy early on. I took a look at him and said, "Old". Not "Presidential" or "Charismatic". Did this color my image of him permanently? No, I researched and found that I agreed with much of what he said. My snap judgement didn't dictate my course from that point on. When I see Clinton I say "Corrupt" so now I need further analysis. When I see Trump I think "Slimy". Is that correct? Well...
My point being is that we need to evolve as an electorate. Is the system broken? Yes, undoubtedly but we won't be able to do anything about it until we vote with our heads and not just our guts. I can't help but to think about my favorite comedian of all time, George Carlin. All my young, dissapointed first-time voter Bernie supporter friends should see this bit of truth from Papa George:
Great comedy shows us truth.
To be accurate, Warren G. Harding was elected 96 years ago. He was elected in 1920 and died two years later after a miserable presidency. No matter who wins in 2016 the question is, are we going to re-elect Warren G. Harding in 2020?