April 25, 2016

It’s the Story, Stupid

In this Mint article, Resident Fellow at IDFC Institute, Vivek Dehejia talks about how story telling impacts electoral outcomes.


He writes "Reagan told Americans that, if elected, he would get government off the back of average folk and empower them to take control of their own lives. Without needing to invoke Friedrich von Hayek or Milton Friedman, he evoked a heady, libertarian ethos which resonated far better with voters than the grim homilies of the sitting president. The result was the first ouster after a first term of a serving US president since the unfortunate Herbert Hoover at the height of the Great Depression. While economists are sharply divided along conventional ideological lines on the efficacy and impacts of Reagan’s economic policies, what cannot be argued is that he was a better storyteller than Carter...

If further proof were needed, one need look no further than the 2014 general election in India. Narendra Modi connected viscerally with voters’ self-evident desire for change, and he, like all of the American presidents I have cited, offered the citizenry a narrative of aspiration and empowerment. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi’s largely negative campaign, attempting to stir the fears of minorities and the loathing of self-styled liberals towards the allegedly communal Modi, failed to resonate with an electorate which was seeking an affirmative message.

There is an interesting corollary to this hypothesis, if you are with me so far. The better story is not necessarily the one that corresponds to better economic or other policies, and, by extension, the better storyteller is not necessarily the better policymaker. But, of course, the reverse is also true: in other words, the better story is not necessarily the worse policy, and a better storyteller may also, in fact, have the right policy ideas. This is a proposition that puritanical self-styled liberals are often reflexively loath to accept...

In India, of course, we are only two-fifths of the way through Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s term in office, and thus it is obviously too early for anyone seriously to judge the successes or failures of their economic or other policies...What is evident, though, is that Modi and the BJP’s electoral prospects in 2019 will depend at least as much on the prime minister’s success or failure in telling the tale of his five years in power as it will on his tangible successes or failures in the policy realm".



Topic : State Capacity / In : OP-EDS
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