A question came to us yesterday: How do you make “reasonable and responsible” candidates engaging? How can people get fired up about candidates who aren’t throwing verbal bombs, screaming about the apocalypse, or telling you a vote for their opponent means WWIII? Hearing from someone conjuring images of the bleak, terrifying future that awaits if you vote for someone else can be pretty motivating.
But what about a candidate who says you’ll probably be fine, and he or she will just do good, solid work to try to keep your life from getting a bit worse, and maybe leaving room for it to get a bit better? In the clickbait culture of 2022, can a candidate promising only responsible governance be successful?
The Indiana Jones paradox
Remember Indiana Jones? (Don’t worry – even in this political climate we haven’t yet resorted to nominating fictional movie characters!) Running from a massive boulder threatening to crush him, fighting off a bizarre pagan priest trying take his heart, or fist-fighting a Nazi commander on top of a tank as it plummets to a fiery end: all heart-pounding, iconic moments that brought us into the edge of our seats.
Guess what? The drama of those scenes wasn’t in creating catastrophe, but in avoiding it.
At the end of each of those scenes nothing actually happened. Indy was fine. The boulder didn’t crush him. His heart remained intact. Our hero climbed back to the top of the cliff and continued his quest, with one fewer Nazi left to fight. In the end, the most dramatic and engaging moments were all about avoiding disaster.
Obviously, life isn’t a movie, where the drama is quite literally manufactured. After all, in the real world, everything is situational. We’re not hanging off the edge of a cliff or stopping Nazis from getting the Holy Grail. But we are facing real challenges, and keeping those challenges from turning into real problems for Americans is enough to keep us engaged.
Ending on a cliffhanger…
We’ve got plenty of work to do. The bomb-throwing isn’t going to stop because we advocate for responsible leadership. Moreover, average Americans have a lot on their plate already. Kids, jobs, bills…we all have our lives to live. But we also know Americans care about their country. If we continue to bring people together, the country will prove the American experiment can not only survive, but thrive. As always, we will do it together.
An old political adage held that people voted for things, not against. But perhaps there’s value to be found somewhere in sounding the alarm bells against extremism, while also painting a picture of what’s possible without it. Responsible leadership might not be clickbait, but it certainly would be worth watching.