Imagination and the Election

October 31, 2008



There are many appeals to the imagination in the course of
this, or any election
.  I have
refrained from writing about the election so as not to politicize this blog.
But as the election draws near I have been thinking about the role imagination
plays in it.

Think about it. Each of the candidates asks us to join them
in imagining a future that is more or less different from the present. Each of
the candidates appeals to our emotions to evoke a response that might influence
us to choose to vote for them- one stimulates fear and anger to influence, one
emphasizes hope. One candidate portrays the competition in a negative way,
asking us to see them that way, too. One candidate talks about unity and shuns
divisive rhetoric.

What we know about any candidate we know because of what we
are shown by their carefully constructed image-makers or an image developed
over may years in the public eye, as well as from the press and how they are portrayed.
From there, our imaginations take over- using what information we have to
relate to the candidates through our own social/psychological/emotional

All of us project our expectations, desires, and fears on
these candidates, however subtly, and this has an equally subtle influence on
how we choose in our elections. Some of us feel safer with an older president,
like having an experienced parent to run the country. Some of us are excited by
youthful demeanor and new ways of approaching problems and issues.

It is impossible to avoid the influence of the imagination
in any choice we make. In electing a president the information we glean from
the press and advertising can help us to make that choice but it can also be
useful to be aware of how we are influenced by our own minds. Imagination is a
powerful, yet subtle aspect of our moment-to-moment consciousness.

What do you think about this?

2 Responses to “Imagination and the Election”

  1. Geoff Says:

    As I’m reading your post there’s a column add on the right here that’s a fear based anti-Obama ad. The fear vs. hope imagery has been pretty overwhelming, I agree. If we look at the news media for tips on what works, it seems like fear pays the bills. Perhaps Mr. Obama’s message will impact the economics of hope in general. Wouldn’t than be nice!


  2. Bob Says:

    Fear imagery works both ways in this election, I think. The McCain campaign uses it actively to try to cast a poor light on the character of Obama and his policies. Some people are just as afraid that McCain will get elected and bring his policies and character in the oval office. To me the difference is that the former is orchestrated by the campaign to engender fear in the electorate- the latter much less so.
    I think both campaigns attempt to manipulate the imagination- that’s what advertising is all about. A look at what emotions are stimulated by each side is revealing about the candidates and their ways of leading.


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