More’on the mark are cultural observers like “Dilbert” creator and author Scott Adams. Adams has long made a strong case that the more persuasive candidate wins the election every time. Qualifications don’t really matter. Records and resumes don’t really matter. Humans are emotional beings, and the candidate who connects with our emotions the best will win, period.
I think Adams is much closer to being correct here, but I’d add one small caveat. What the public perceives as the more more persuasive personality can change, based on a number of exterior circumstances.
At the height of the Cold War for example, Bill Clinton could not have been a serious candidate for president… even for the Democrats. Note that the Democrats’ most liberal nominee before Clinton was Senator George McGovern in 1972, who had still been a hero bomber pilot in World War II.
However, does this mean that these more persuasive candidates were the “wrong” choices? That’s another partisan debate that will never really be solved across party lines. The point here is to try to explain something to those people who are still incredulous over Trump’s behavior, or his lack of qualifications for the nation’s highest office.
The fact is a very significant portion America is okay with it. And if you’re someone who voted for any of the previous three presidents before Trump, you contributed to it. The folks who kept touting Hillary Clinton as the “most qualified candidate” were probably causing her a net loss in votes every time they said it.
We’ve had 25 years to get used to this. That said, perhaps the more jarring nature of the Trump presidency will wake more of America up to the fact that qualifications have become cheap in a political atmosphere where most voters distrust politicians inherently.
Make no mistake, the Trump phenomenon didn’t just happen overnight. And as long as we give so much power to a candidate who can charm or otherwise stoke our emotions to get into the Oval Office, it’s going to continue.
Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
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