The Personality Traits And Private Lives Of Politicians Should Have No Bearing In Democratic Political Discourse. Critically Discuss.

1316 words - 6 pages

The private lives and personal qualities of a politician should have no place in democratic political discourse as they offer no benefits. Langer, (2011), states that, “...issues and policies count a great deal” (Langer, 2011:3), in determining the success or failure of political leaders. A policy that will harm most of the electorate will not be favoured, no matter how ‘human’ the politician appears. Additionally it is not just a charming or charismatic leader that rules alone (Lichtenberg, 1989), the candidate needs the support of the party and its members to succeed and cannot rule alone. Moreover, although the scandals can reveal aspects about the private sexual behaviours of a ...view middle of the document...

However, this did not last, as “...when the press did turn against Wilson, a whole raft of innuendoes about his private life were used to undermine his reputation” (Seaton, 2004:177). This is an important example as the sharing of personal information with the media may do more harm than good for politicians as it can be used against them and therefore should not have an important place in political discourse.

Additionally, Foley (2000), presents a case against an emerging presidentialisation in the British political system. The presidentialisation of politics is when more focus and importance is given to the leader and it becomes a much more powerful and centralised role. Since the focus on personality traits and personal lives is somewhat linked to the presidentialisation of politics, the points mentioned by Foley can be applied to the argument in this essay. The main case mentioned by Foley is the “...case of deceptive appearances” (Foley, 2000:323-324). This is when the coverage of the private lives of politicians takes over and undermines news coverage of important political stories. (Foley, 2000). Again, this shows that personality traits of politicians and candidates can take over from real issues and polices the candidate stands for and believes in. This can also present a real disadvantage on the other hand to candidates with a not so favourable and charming personality but who have good policies that they are passionate about. This can do more harm that good for political discourse, and provide an unfair advantage to some candidates over others.

Lichtenberg, (1989), state that the increased attention on the personal lives of politicians derives from the publics demands to know more. The politicisation of the private has been easy due to the introduction of television into the political sphere. This however creates an “illusion of deep insight into a persons’ character....” (Lichtenberg, 1989:4). The blurring of the line between the private and public is certain in today’s political environment (Stanyer and Wring, 2004), and may result in someone who is most suitable for public office not standing up as they do not wish to be subject to harsh media scrutiny (Lichtenberg, 1989:4). Therefore, this harms political discourse to an extent as it does not provide an equal opportunity for all to participate.

Gender can also be used as another argument against the use of personality traits and person lives of politicians in political discourse. Alexander and Anderson (1993), mention that “the fact that gender role stereotypes characterise and influence many decision making domains suggests that voters might use stereotypes to attribute different skills and capabilities to men and women candidates” (Alexander and Anderson, 1993:528). This can disadvantage women candidates and should have no place in democratic political discourse as gender or stereotype characteristics do not define a persons ability to govern. “...Women are believed to be...

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