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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 13-Apr-12


Friday 13-April-12

Assertion or Persuasion in Politics

I was reading something recently about the Republican elections for their 2012 presidential candidate that made me think. Normally, it all passes over my head as I live in Britain and politics across the pond are of limited interest, particularly the pre-election shenanigans. But this piqued my interest.

The point of interest was made about Mitt Romney, how he was framing himself as a 'severe conservative' and making assertions about what should be done. Like many others, he is seeking to persuade his voters by boldly asserting things as being true rather than gaining votes through more rational and persuasive methods.

It's a serious question for politicians. Do you appeal to the more thoughtful, questioning voters by putting forward a reasoned case, or do you take an authoritative stance, playing the all-knowing parent-leader who knows what is best? In short, do you push or do you pull? From what I have seen, Republicans generally prefer to assertively push, while Democrats prefer to persuasively pull.

It's not too dissimilar over here in the UK. The Conservative right, based in an aristocratic past, just seem to want to tell the country what is best for them. The Labour right, however, are not just about pulling. While not as leftist as some European parties yet not as central as the US Democrats, Labour do have a pushy tendency. Take for example Tony Blair's decision to join the USA in Iraq even after a million people demonstrated against such a decision. The historical aggressive style of supporting trade unions also leads to more push.

In the UK, the Liberal Democrats seem to be more reasoned and reasoning and are more popular amongst academics and thinkers, although their reputation for consideration is being dented in their current bumpy coalition with the Conservatives.

As in any persuasive situation, the bottom line is what works, wins. If you have a population that just wants a parent figure who seems to know what they are doing, then push methods are best. If you have a thinking population or people who do not like being dictated to, then some of pull is better. In practice you usually need a fine balance of both. Too much push and you seem dictatorial and inconsiderate. Too much pull and you seem weak and insubstantial. Just how much of which is best will be proven by only one thing: the result.

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