The Biology of Politics

Today is Sunday, and, as it is becoming my tradition, I enjoy watching at specific issues (e.g. political polls) from a different perspective.

In this case, biology.

Actually, the inspiration is the constant flurry of partisan bile that I read on my wall on one of my Facebook profiles (the one where, for historical reasons, I have mainly Italian connections).

If you have been outside this planet since early 1990s… Italy has a media and economic tycoon at its helm, as Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri- in short, Presidente (yes, Italy is a country with two presidents- the Presidente della Repubblica being the official head of state).

I never voted for him, but, as I said long ago, and keep repeating to my Italian contacts every time he wins an election… he receives the votes, therefore he has a mandate- and while I do not approve his political programme, I admire his ability to steer the political debate better than his opponents.

And I am not talking about the media (Italy has a State TV that, in my opinion, should report to the Presidente della Repubblica and Parliament, not the Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri- whoever that person is).

When I visited Italy, I chatted around in cafes, restaurants, and so on- trying to avoid the typical “digging” with your own political siblings.

And I think that the approval rate shown at the polls on voting day are more representative of the real inclination of voters than what they say to pollsters.

But it happened the same to Neil Kinnock vs John Mayor: Labour assumed to have won. To the last minute. Based on polls.

And this is were I started thinking about the biology of politics.

Actually: the preventive medicine of democracy (or- political marketing).

Political body

Let’s see the electorate as a “political body”- and, voting or not, any person is part of the political body (yes, it goes back to the Aristotle’s “political animal”).

Political polls are nothing more than exams to identify your state of health.

Taking your temperature when you feel that it is needed, or doing basic exams once in a while is considered a sensible, rational practice.

And doing exams after you fell ill and recovered, to avoid a recurrence, is a sensible choice

But I think that everybody would consider quixotical to change the way you do exams to influence the results of an exam.

I like to quick read books to understand the general argument and supporting information.

But when reading a poll, it seems as if I am pondering each individual word- because I am.

Way too often political polls are an exercise in extracting the desirable answers.

Yes, it could sometimes be part of the need to get the unconvinced to see what is common wisdom- and conform.

But most often I attribute the structure of the questions, and the logic underlying, to a simple issue: tunnel vision.

It is more about “who” than about “what” of political polls.

Political marketing

If you design polls not from the “scientific” perspective of an expert in assessing (listening), but from that of somebody trying to influence the audience (talking), you are confusing means and ends.

“Scientific”, because I still consider “scientific” a label to be applied only to something that can be repeated under the same conditions and produce exactly the same results.

And social sciences are closer to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle than to classical physics or chemistry.

I mean: the observation changes the observed.

Somebody says that political marketing is either an oxymoron or a distortion of the representative democratic process.

But, frankly, that is a dated perspective, based on “electoral cycles”, i.e. the idea that you talk to voters once every few years- and then you do what you see fit.

Mobile phones and the Internet changed the “electoral cycle”: it is a permanent election day.

In Europe, a “simple” change that I would like to see is harmonizing the “formal” electoral cycles, i.e. having campaigning and voting more or less synchronized across the EU.

Why? So that politicians can focus on the issues, instead of having a slice of the EU political corps posturing to be re-elected every few months.

Political marketing, separated from political influencing, is actually a need when we will probably move from a “regulatory” approach to a “legal framework” with “adaptive” initiatives.

Coping with real-world evolutions: so that our countries or supranational entities can cope with reality for the better good of all the citizens and inhabitants.

Because I consider each inhabitant, citizen or not, part of the “political body”- and influencing the political choices.

And I question the basic concept of “representative democracy”, when say over 5% of your population is not allowed to vote for the representatives.

Again, it is a matter of “timeframes”.

The “political body” was checked once in a while, but after WWII the “checks” became more and more frequent.

And the real reason was probably the increasing irrelevance of regulation set up not on the actual “economic clusters” but on the XIX century concept of political borders.

We are living really interesting times- while I share some of the analysis of Prof. Chomsky, I am still more positive about our capability to innovate and evolve (yes, also as a political body).

Hoping that nobody dares to propose a reality TV-style electoral process.

I mean: SMS-based instant voting.

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