More on Politics

Will continue with the review of the Hedges book soon…but in the meantime, an interesting note on current politics.

The Washington Examiner, as far as as I know, is a political rag with an ideological agenda, but this article makes an interesting observation about what makes for a successful campaign strategy that is often forgotten.

We expect, naively, that voters vote for whoever that most closely approximates their own ideals and preferences.  In this sense, people assume that the social conservative Evangelicals can only be captured by an “obviously” religious person.  Many people whose religiosity was questionable suddenly discover God when they try to run for a major office as a Republican…and fail miserably.  I am actually quite surprised me that even a shrewd marketer like Trump fell to this trap momentarily, if the article can be trusted.

Of course, this is not how political marketing works.  If any politician (or a marketer of any kind) expects to meet the wants and needs of any voter/consumer segment exactly, he is deluded.  Not only will he fail to match the exact needs and wants of any more than a handful of persons, the attempt to match anyone too closely may easily lose the rest of the market.  The politician has to choose:  either small group (but relatively large, compared to others) of people who happen to be very fussy about their demands and match them very closely, while charging them a premium, or just deliver a solid product that meets general needs of many people but not particularly closely to any one of them and charge relatively little.  The former, of course, is the Apple strategy while the latter is the PC strategy, but the same logic applies to any number of different settings.

While neither is inherently superior, the fact is that not everyone has the wherewithal to deliver one or the other equally.  Why should any customer pay a premium for a good or service?  In the end, it comes to “credibility,” specific to that particular segment, both the buyer and the seller, something that induces them to hand over the extra dollar for what the seller offers.  What makes for credibility?  It varies.  One presumes, however, that credibility cannot be turned out on the fly like hotcakes.  For all we know, Trump the private person could be a deeply religious man, but Trump the public persona certainly isn’t, and it is the latter that’s running for presidency. Just showing the family Bible and such will not win this credibility.  Trump the public persona, however, is a business man whose leadership and financial prowess, rightly or wrongly, enjoys credibility with wide swaths of Republican voters, religious and otherwise.  It makes no sense for Trump to waste time trying to convince people of his religiosity that nobody will take too seriously, whether it is sincere or not.  His public persona, however, is not a bad asset given the market and he should double down on it, and he has.

Will this work?  Who knows.  Trump’s bet is that his business prowess meets enough of the “general needs” among the Republican voters that they are willing to overlook his areligiosity, and indeed, profanity.  We do not know the distribution of the elasticity of substitution between religiosity and business savvy among the Republican voters.  Maybe it is sufficiently elastic for enough of them that Trump’s gamble will pay off, or not.  Still, it is refreshing to see someone who understands the basics of marketing running a campaign.

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