Blogging on the subject of the election on a flight from New York to Dallas -- with the red states below me virtually basking in their vermillion defiance of being scorned as fly-over country -- seems an almost-too-convenient conceit. But the Rold Gold "tiny twist" pretzels and the recirculated air -- fresh as a stump speech -- assure me this is no blogger's fiction.
What's most compelling about this election is the extent to which it was driven by emotion, by a visceral response to what are loosely being bundled as "moral values." In that context, 2004 is the polar opposite of the rationally-driven 1984 election when Reagan posed the supremely unemotional question "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
Ohio, having watched over 100,000 jobs disappear over the last four years, is clearly not better off, but that didn't seem to matter. Nor did the fact that the majority of Americans -- Ohioans included -- agreed that Kerry "won" the debate.
Earlier I said this was the most "compelling" aspect of the election, a dissonance that many find confounding. I purposely didn't say "surprising" because we shouldn't be surprised that analysis is trumped by our Great National Confidence in the Viscera when it comes to a decision as important as electing a president.
Is this just operative in a political dimension? Far from it. As every Inc. reader knows, business decisions masquerade as clear-eyed logical outcomes, but are really psychic swamps of emotion where the equivalent of "moral values" operates in a high intuitive register. That's why the best technology doesn't always win, why "relationships" are still at the core of salesmanship, why we so often laboriously collect the data and chuck it, only to decide based on what "feels" right.
I think we are entering a cycle -- perhaps terrorism-induced -- where logical, analytical decision-making is going to be increasingly supplanted by the dominance of soft and squishy variables. The analog for "moral values" differs from decision to decision, but I'm predicting that times are going to be difficult for people -- and companies -- who try to reason their customers and prospects into a sale. Just ask John Kerry.