Monday, November 10, 2008

Why Barack Obama? Why George Bush?

It is no secret that the presidential elections in the US are not based solely on the issues. There is the common saying that the most electable candidate is the one with whom you can see yourself going out for a beer. Richard Nixon lost the campaign in 1960 during his first debate with Kennedy, because he was old and sweaty. Is this reason a legitimate basis for a vote? What exactly is it that makes you want to get a beer with one candidate over another?

My proposed answer is a reading of integrity. I don't want to get a beer and have a conversation with someone who just blabbers about what he thinks I want to hear. I'd rather talk to someone who is honest and upfront about their opinions, doesn't seek validation, and conducts the conversation with transparency. Throughout the whole campaign, Obama didn't lie about his past; he didn't obfuscate his policies; and he didn't tell people what he thought they wanted to hear. The McCain campaign floundered from topic to topic, trying to figure out what people wanted to hear. They tried to tell people that they wouldn't be safe under Obama. They tried to attack Obama's experience. They tried to make the campaign all about low taxes. The Obama campaign presented a clear, simple message: if you want change, vote for Obama. The McCain campaign realized the efficacy of that message, and tried to cram the ticket's "maverickness" down people's throats, saying "ooooh we're change candidates too!!" People don't like being told what they want to hear; they like being told the truth.

McCain's style of campaigning is certainly not new. John Kerry fell victim to it in 2004. He was constantly accused of being a "flip-flopper." As much as I detested those accusations and acknowledge that the issues were more complicated than "flip-flopping" gives them credit for, Kerry was guilty of pandering to the crowd. He compromised his morals to fit his perceived impression of what the electorate was looking for. Going back historically, you can examine which campaigns contained the most authenticity; these are usually the candidates who won.

Obama's style of authenticity and truthfulness was astounding. He did what most candidates are afraid to do, because having every decision you've made in your life examined is utterly terrifying. Obama understands that integrity is not just about telling the truth when asked. It's always telling "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." He didn't need someone to interview everyone who knew him finally to find out that he had done cocaine or marijuana. His character was virtually un-attackable, because there were no dirty little secrets to uncover.

People know instinctively when they're being lied to, misled, or having details omitted or obfuscated. If you want someone's trust, transparency is a must. If you want someone's vote, trust is a must.

1 comment:

nate said...

I don't know though, Obama knew people wanted someone who was not at all W, and he basically promised to not be him. People needed to hear that if they weren't a member of the 28% they would be getting something different. I read that as telling people what they wanted to hear.