AE Monthly

Articles - November - 2006 Issue

On Voting

Wilkie

Feelings matter


By Bruce McKinney

Voting has a mysterious power. Those who didn't have it have stormed barricades to get it. The American south felt it was so important they passed laws to keep it beyond the reach of blacks and other minorities. Chicago became famous as the city where voting was so important even dead people did it. In totalitarian regimes 99% of the population vote and they vote 100% of the time for their esteemed leader. To some it obviously matters a great deal; to others not so much.

Voting, we learned in school, is essentially an intellectual process. Know the candidates, know the issues, vote. It turns out there is and always has been an emotional component. FDR was more appealing than Wendell Wilkie. I recall my Mother, a Republican, speaking of Jack Kennedy, a Democrat, "as interesting." She was looking at the man, not the party, as she was a life-long Republican.

Over the past fifty years those who sell products and services have, in the course of learning to market detergents and toothpaste, also learned a great deal about human behavior. We would like to think we buy "logically" but it turns out we frequently buy "emotionally." "It's appealing" is not a factual statement.

Increasingly we have seen the lessons of selling soap used to sell other things and for about 25 years there's been increasing use of direct emotional appeals in politics both to encourage support for one candidate and/or discourage support for another. LBJ's presidential campaign in 1964 ushered in the new era with a Christina's world scene and an atomic bomb voice over. Since then it has been down hill all the way.

At the heart of current political advertising is the negative message that induces fear and revulsion but can not be rebutted in the same fifteen seconds it takes to scare you. The impression is made. Such advertising is employed by the unethical on behalf of the dishonest who believe winning is the only thing that matters. You're human and they mistake this for stupidity. It's easy for anyone, me included, to be swept away by advertising created by professionals, market tested, and scientifically aimed at our vulnerabilities. They plan it for months and lob it in at the opportune moment, hand grenades tossed into the baby nursery. It's well thought out and absolutely unethical.

That they do this is their crime: that we accept it ours. If we give them our vote we reward them. If we stay away, disgusted, we also reward them. The only way we render judgment is with our votes against them.

As we approach this election please be prepared. There are no wrong answers in the voting booth and few people can vote intelligently for every initiative and race. I vote for what I understand and stop there but vote knowing my vote has never changed the outcome of an election.

We live in an interdependent world. The police and fire departments protect me. Teachers taught me and teach my children today. Mechanics at a local dealership maintain my car. My wife and I provide services to book dealers and book collectors in every state and many countries. I call my neighbor if I notice they have forgotten to close their garage door. I support local schools and I vote. It's a privilege to be an American and I repay my debt in a small way on election days. I hope on November 7th you too will acknowledge your debt and cast your vote. It's important.

AE Monthly


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