Dear Great Book Guru, While jogging through our lovely Village, my good friend John Kenny came upon a troupe of actors rehearsing at Spooky Park. The play was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and John said it looked like a fine production. Well, I am very excited because Julius Caesar has always been a favorite of mine. That the populace can so easily be swayed by powerful oratory continues to fascinate me. Can you recommend a book that analyzes this phenomenon? Piqued by Politics
Dear Piqued, Yes, I too find the politics of persuasion most interesting and I just finished a book that delves into that very topic. It is THE CANDIDATE by Samuel Popkin and while he broadly addresses crowd manipulation, he focuses on three presidential candidates: George H.W.Bush Sr., Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton and why all three lost public support. Popkin begins by spotlighting candidates who seemed surefire winners at the outset (Thomas Dewey, Rudy Giuliani, Gary Hart) and then stumbled badly. He contrasts them with Ronald Reagan and his amazing ability to win the "hearts and souls" of the electorate. He compares challengers to speedboats that can navigate quickly with little or no waves and incumbents to battleships that must proceed slowly and cautiously but produce huge waves. From incumbents, the public looks for promises fulfilled while challengers can get by simply with promises of a rosy future. For me, the most interesting chapter was on the public's seeming inability to vote in its own best interest when confronted with powerful, conflicting rhetoric. A very good primer for the upcoming November election!
Reminder: Sunday, June 10 at 3pm is the Flag Day Concert and Picnic at Clifton Park. This event is sponsored by the Village of Sea Cliff and the Sea Cliff Civic Association. Bring blankets, chairs, and lunch for a great afternoon!