The Importance of Acting in Politics

I was picking on Scott Adams earlier so I think it’s only fair to point out when he has an interesting idea. Adams writes:

Before Ronald Reagan became governor of California, and then president of the United States, people wondered if an actor could become a good politician. It’s no surprise that actors are excellent at campaigning and giving speeches. But lately I [Adams] have noticed that acting is becoming the most important skill involved in policy too. Let’s look at some examples.

1. The U.S. acts as though it doesn’t have permission from Pakistan to attack Al Qaeda on Pakistani soil. The government of Pakistan has to publicly complain about it and threaten vague consequences to be seen as defending its sovereignty.

2. The U.S. has to act as though the Israelis and Palestinians can come up with a workable peace plan if they try hard enough.

3. Republican politicians that don’t agree with the main party lines have to act as though they do or else face consequences.

4. Donald Trump acted as though he was seriously considering running for president. The media acted as though they believed him.

5. Democrat politicians have to act as though the rich are a bunch of immoral tax dodgers that are the main cause of the budget problem, as opposed to the main source of funding. . . .

I don’t know how new this all is, but it’s still an interesting way of looking at things.

[Cross-posted at the Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.