Members in the Media
From: The Atlantic

The Point of the Cruelty

When a reporter asked Richard Daley, then the mayor of Chicago, whether his gun-control policies were effective, Daley pointed to a rifle and shouted, “If I put this up your butt, you’ll find out how effective this is!” Rahm Emanuel, a political operative who would also go on to become mayor of Chicago, mailed a dead fish to a pollster who had delivered results late. Tony Banks, a member of the U.K. Parliament, once publicly said that another member was “living proof that a pig’s bladder on a stick can be elected to Parliament.”

In many workplaces, those sorts of comments and actions could cost people their jobs. But in politics, rude behavior is often described as a sign that a politician is “tough,” “no-nonsense,” or “effective.” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who once reportedly threw a binder and hit a staffer with it, has argued that politicians need to be rough to deal with other politicians. “When you’re out there on the world stage and dealing with people like Vladimir Putin, yeah, you want someone who’s tough,” she said in a cable-news interview. Former President Donald Trump was famous, of course, for his cruelty—making fun of a reporter’s disability, bragging about assaulting women. This approach, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer argued in 2018, helped Trump politically. Trump’s “only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty,” he wrote, and “it is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him.”

Electoral politics is about popularity. So why does cruelty seem to be popular? I took a look at some research on the topic, and found that academics have a few basic theories. The first might seem obvious: Jerks—people who consciously and intentionally violate norms and rules—may succeed in politics simply because they want power so much. Jerks seek out high-status positions, Deniz Ones, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, told me. “That exact profile is the one we find among managers,” Ones said. “They’re the types who want to boss others around.”

Read the whole story: The Atlantic

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