It’s becoming clear that an individual’s outlook on life is hard-wired. The DNA, and thus brain structure and ‘mind’, are predisposed toward particular philosophical views. This viewpoint is reflected in our political preferences.
If there’s not much movement going on in people’s preferences, it makes me wonder why we bother arguing politics at all.
So what’s the point in campaigning? What’s the point in trying to convince people to vote for something they’re already have a predisposition to like or not like.
Firstly, while it looks like our philosophical preferences are in-built, there’s a billion ways of expressing those as political beliefs. For example, depending on my mood and the issue, I can lean left or right on social issues. Political labels are ill-fitting categories.
Therefore, the point of campaigning is to express a combination of political views that are attractive across the largest range of people. That’s why the traditional “left” or “right” labeling is so handy – it allows politicians to broadly appeal to a wide variety of people with whom they would otherwise find little specifically in common.
Secondly, topicality dresses up old philosophical arguments in new social, economic and technological challenges. That is, you need to campaign to make your brand of political leaning relevant to the times.
Thirdly, you need to inspire the pre-determined political leaners to actually care enough to vote. You need to fly the flag of your chosen broad political camp. You need to be there for those who identify with a particular broad viewpoint. Which takes you back to topicality and a sense of urgency, moment, and perhaps threat.
Fourthly, and this is the most critical aspect, politicians need win over the ‘undecideds’. These are the people for whom DNA has carved out a less clear political niche.
My guesstimate is that they make up about 5 to 15% of the population at any one time. They’re the people who vote differently between elections, or not at all; and the people who often vote for smaller parties.
Appealing to them is difficult because the political labels don’t fit so easily. You won’t win them by trying to stretch your political label to embrace them. You win them over by expressing ideas not at all related to their unclear political and philosophical views. For example, you need to find a topical issue that forces them to take a ‘common sense’ or mainstream position, and express that issue and position before your opponents do.
So that’s why politicians campaign; to hold and motivate the predisposed and win over the uncertain.