Saturday, July 26, 2008

The unintended consequences of political opinions

My friend Lincoln just got back from a trip to Benin, a small country in Western Africa. He didn't speak any French, so when he couldn't communicate with the locals he would just yell, "OBAMA!", and everyone would laugh and be merry.

Which brings us to an obvious point: foreigners love Obama. In his speech in Berlin he was already urging European countries to send troops to Afghanistan. It's like, wait, aren't you still just a presidential hopeful? But the 200,000 plus Germans lapped his rhetoric up.

People love to use these anecdotes as support for the claim that Obama will be able to make foreign policy decisions that other countries will not. That may be true, I don't know.

Instead, I want to make the point people should be a little more cognizant of the actual consequences of their support for various candidates. Nas, it might not be helpful for you to go off and shout at Bill O'Reilly., have you ever considered the possibility that your outlandish commercials might actually anger swing voters?

I want to pose a thought experiment. Which event would be more helpful to the Obama campaign: a student walking around a liberal arts college wearing an Obama t-shirt, or a student walking around a liberal arts college wearing a McCain t-shirt?

I think it's the McCain t-shirt, and my reasoning is simple. If you wore an Obama t-shirt it wouldn't be a surprise. Fairly or unfairly, you'll be labeled just another liberal at a liberal school. In all likelihood, most of the students there will be slightly bored of Obama.

But if you were to wear a McCain t-shirt, then people might pay attention. Those who sort of supported Obama but had no intention of voting might realize that there is a whole other constituency out there. If you don't believe that this sort of image-cognition process is possible, you should read up on priming.

I'm frankly undecided on what my presidential vote will be, but it sort of annoys me when liberals think that screaming their talking points is actually going to alter opinions.