Reason reminds us voters deal better with generalities, that with specifics that cause eyes to glaze over:
Bold ideas move people. Big ideas seduce them. And nothing crushes passion like a decimal point.
Few things get politicians into more trouble than offering voters too many details. Yet every election cycle, pundits of all denominations join to lament the fact that candidates (mostly Mitt Romney) aren’t putting enough meat on their platitudes. Let’s be honest; in politics, details can equal disaster.
Whereas wonks and columnists might eat up charts and white papers, the electorate has better things to do — most notably any activity not entailing looking at a chart or reading a white paper. That is why we function under a representative democracy rather than under a 300 million-person bull session. Voters, busy with real life, operate under the assumption that the people they send to Washington own calculators, watched enough “Schoolhouse Rock” to know how a bill becomes a law and, in some broad sense, share their worldview.
Sometimes political parties forget that fact. House Speaker John Boehner recently quipped that the GOP platform (now more than 32,000 words) should be housed on a single page. He didn’t go far enough. The Republican platform should be distilled into its purest form, which, someone once noted, would read: “Get off my lawn.”
Apparently, there is an impression in Washington that the longer a document is the more it says. Major political parties should also understand that some things are simply assumed by voters. For instance, everyone probably would concede that both parties are profoundly opposed to the trafficking of children. No need to write it down!
Take the Ten Commandments, the gold standard of political platforms. God commands: Thou shalt not commit adultery. He doesn’t instruct the Israelites to break out into subcommittees to haggle over the definition of a “neighbor’s wife” before the law is carved into stone. They get the gist.
Perceptions trump details. Sloganeering works. Do voters really want details? If they did, would our televisions be polluted with ads that have less to do with reality than the sitcoms that they interrupt?
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