Saturday, February 28, 2004

The root of electability -  

Geoffrey offered his (and for much the same reasons our) endorsement for John Edwards in the Democratic primary weeks ago. Imagine my (and I assume his) chagrin as Kerry's electability seems to win him more and more primaries. I'm frustrated by this on all sorts of levels; I think political campaigns would be much better (and political journalism much more interesting) if they could somehow focus on policy positions rather than political process. Another source of frustration is with the very idea of electability. I mean what is it? What does being thought of as electable actually mean? Where does this nebulous sense that a candidate is electable come from?

Since we know electability deals, more than any single other candidate attribute I can think of, with political process we can, perhaps, gain some insight into these questions by moving into the realm of the sociologist. Duncan Watts (sociologist/physicist at Columbia) argues that the pheomenon of electability is much like any other social fad. Therefore, it follows, that elecability might be understood like any other fad, as springing from the difficulty that individuals have in making good decisions (and hence our tendency to defer decision making to our perception of the collective will).

So now we know (or at least have some insight into the process). Unfortunately, I find this does little to make me much happier about candidate Kerry.
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