04 September 2007

Moses For President

Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, author of "The Culture Code," is a French expatriate and Jungian psychologist whose made a fortune as a marketing guru (some dismiss him as a con man, or an oversimplifier).

His method is use three hour, increasingly personal focus groups to discern the archetypal emotional meaning people tend to assign to various concepts; something generally distinct from the conscious "alibis" that people use to justify their behavior. He distills these emotional subcurrents into a word or three that he calls "Culture Codes" which he claims very greatly from one nation's culture to another, but tend to be stable within a culture. He then offers anecdotes to illustrate the perils of marketing "off Code" and the positive results that come from marketing "on Code."

His book explores the emotional attachments that Americans have to concepts like Love, Seducation, Sex, Beauty, Fat, Health, Youth, Home, Dinner, Work, Money, Quality, Perfection, Food, Alcohol, Shopping, Luxury, the American Presidency and America.

Some are counterintuitive: He claims the American Code for sex is "violence." Other observations are pedestrian, claiming that work is "who you are." Not terribly counterintuitive, but nevertheless interesting, is his claim that the American Code for the Presidency is "Moses." We don't need a perfect person to be President, nor do we need an intellectual (an ideal held by the French), but we do need an optimistic, visionary chief revolutionary.

The question then, is which of the viable candidates fits that bill?

This emotional criterion certainly does a lot to explain Bill Richardson's relative lack of success in the Presidential race, despite the fact that his resume of public service outshines that of most of his fellow Democrats running for the nomination.

It also helps explain why John Edwards in near the top of the pack, despite minimal government service and few legislative accomplishments. Moreover, it provides a lens with which to evaluate him vis-a-vis fellow candidates Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama.

Of course, from an electability point of view, the question is how each of these candidates measures against likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney on the "feels like Moses" scale, which Rapaille argues, matters more than partisan affiliation, intelligence (which is almost a defect) or policy positions. Dire circumstances can upend this consideration, but the 2008 nominee won't actually be running against George W. Bush, whom, in Rapaille's view, prevailed over Gore and Kerry respectively, because both men were far too cerebral.

I'm not going to conduct the analysis of the front runners myself at this point, and I don't have a firm handle on the public perception of them. I haven't spent much time watching the debates so far, and remain muddled and ambivalent about my choices from among the top four Democrats, upon whom I and other Coloradans will be asked to pass judgment in five months. But, Rapaille's approach certainly offers one means, which is as good as any political science has to offer, by which to handicap the race.

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