popularity contest

popularity contest

In a representative democracy, the game of politics as usual is played according to two main games: the popularity contest is one, power politics is the other. Popularity contests are not quite the same as populism, all politicians must engage in popularity contests, a populist politician never stops playing at it. One can win a popularity contest by:

  • appearing to be familiar - so people think "that person is a lot like me"
  • appearing to be trustworthy - having a good reputation
  • appearing to be agreeable - saying things that people agree with

In important races, getting elected requires all three. "Appearing to be things" is a necessary caveat, because in politics appearances are everything.

How to win a Popularity Contest

appear to be familiar

Being familiar is "of the people", it means being relatively good looking, or at least not funny looking. In speech, dress and physicality, emulate not the, ordinary person, but who the ordinary person wishes they were.

Make your opponents unfamiliar.

  • try to photograph them in funny poses or with funny faces.
  • have your spin doctor point out their flaws or idiosyncrasies.
  • portray them being from an unfamiliar upbringing.

appear to be trustworthy

In general, being trustworthy amounts to:
"saying what you will do and doing what you say you will"

As per politics as usual this translates to:
  • don't say specifically what you will do.
  • if you must break a promise, break it early in your mandate so people can forget.

appear to be agreeable

This is the most complicated part of getting elected, declaring a platform of some sort.

motherhood and apple pie
The best case is when you can find a position on an issue that almost everyone agrees with, and that you can say with credibility than the opposition. "Corruption must be stopped"

positions on hot issues
The next best case is saying something that most people agree with, this is complicated, however, other parties are doing the same thing, and you have to make your platform sound different.
  • Find a position on a hot issue that the opposition is not taking
  • check to ensure that this position will not alienate the base of support you already have.

wedge issues
finish your platform by examining your opponents base and looking for issues on which they may be divided. If you find one, this is a wedge issue that can pry some support away from your opponent (once again, your wedge issue cannot alienate your base.)