If I asked you to pick a colour, any colour from the rainbow’s spectrum, which colour would you pick? You would decide for a hue which appeals to you the most, one that grabs your attention. The human mind works little different when it comes to political choices, such as voting in an election. From a behavioural point of view, voting compares to picking your preferred scent of deodorant or selecting your favourite chocolate because it is all about forming a decision. However, voting carries much greater significance than casual, everyday choices because your vote contributes to determining the political leadership of your country. In turn, your country’s political leadership shapes what kind of life you can live as it defines the country’s economy, legislation, stability, prosperity, and welfare.
Considering that politics creates the fundament to our life’s quality, you would expect an informed decision-making at the polling stations. In reality though, it is a concerning minority of people who cast their ballot based on facts and a critical contemplation of the party’s policies. Research shows that the political attitude of people is oftentimes influenced by shallow criteria, like the candidate’s physical appearance or attractiveness. This is because unconscious, yet, powerful psychological mechanisms drive human decision-making by default.
Politicians exploit these predictable mechanisms of the human mind to win over voters. Common, effective tactics of persuasion include flashy appearances in the public or attention-snatching commercials. Beside these traditional campaigns, a new strategy for pulling voters seems to be evolving, especially among the rows of right-wing parties. This novel strategy builds upon a reformed archetype of the political leadership persona. Whereas the traditional archetype embodies a composed, level-headed seriousness; the new leadership persona reminds of a clownish, boisterous, and fickle character.
The new political persona could be labelled as the ‘Political Joker’, and its best proxy represents Donald Trump, who is infamous for his entertaining value to the world. We may laugh at Trump, we may frown upon him, but at the end of the day, we have to admit that Trump gained massive popularity despite defying all norms of respectable political behaviour. The question is what makes this new, comical political persona so triumphant?
A politician like Trump is sensational. The words that leave his mouth and the action he takes embed an unrivalled potential for stirring up people’s minds. Trump behaves so obscurely that he is always sure to provide some entertainment, regardless of whether his actions contain sincere political input or not. In this way, he gains the interest of people, even if for different reasons. Part of the population pays him attention to be bewildered or to have a laugh, the other part truly supports his views. In this way, Trump achieved a status of controversial fame. But here is the one crucial point that we must consider when analysing the phenomenon of Trump’s amusement politics. The people who follow Trump for pure personal fun still increase his reach, allowing his political agendas to spread highly effectively. With such a large range of influence, it becomes only inevitable that Trump’s messages eventually hit and turn the minds of critical voters.
Placing a Trump-like figure at the flagship of an election campaign also promises success because it aids in creating a unique relatability for the voters. Evidence from psychological studies points out that voters are more likely to favour a candidate they can relate to. Our human instinct makes us like somebody better if they appear to be similar to ourselves. If you take a close look at Trump, you see a simple man at the bottom who contrasts the sophisticated – one might say snobby – politicians of the opposition. Trump counters overly-complicated thinking with straightforward reasoning that just anybody, even a child, can understand. He doesn’t hide his messages in eloquence but feeds his opinions in plain, processable words. At the same time, Trump portrays himself in a light so that citizens are likely to identify with him. He does that by addressing feelings, such as falling victim to fake news and the general system in place. Even though he lost to Biden in the tumultuous elections in the US we all just witnessed, he still managed to increase his popularity with Latinx, Black, and Asian American voters by about 3 points.
In sum, Trump sells his ideology to the population through a flamboyant character which challenges the traditional image of a political leader and offers a broad relatability. It is not only the US-Republican Party which plays this loud persona as their winning strategy. Other politicians who borrow elements from the Trumpian template include Boris Johnson or Hungary’s Viktor Orban. Considering the success of this new political archetype, it appears as if right-wing parties discovered a true strategic trump for securing votes. However, we hold a responsibility for not letting such politicians become victorious for the wrong reasons. We must stay vigilant to prevent falling prey to this new political persona which lures us with its entertaining tenor – whether we vote for them or not. Picking a political colour should not solely depend on the instinctive appeals of somebody who dominantly fetches our attention, and we all can help in achieving a greater informed political decision-making.
[Ricarda Senger, (she, her), rikkisdiary.com]
[Photo Credit: Element5 Digital]