Politicians: They’re slick and soulless, shifting positions shamelessly to stay ahead of public opinion. Unless they’re ridiculously rigid and inflexible, sticking to their principles even when doing so courts disaster.
Unfair clichés? To be sure. But in rough, unsophisticated terms, these stereotypes delineate the extreme ends of our Congressional continuum. They’re reminders that even politicians from the same party, who advocate the same policies, can have dramatically different personalities.
One political scientist argues this often-overlooked truth can help explain our elected representatives’ behavior and even help resolve deadlocks such as the current debt-ceiling standoff. As Jonathan Keller of James Madison University points out, you probably can’t change someone’s mind until you understand how they derive their sense of self-esteem.
“When a situation arises that arouses a leader’s core sources of self-validation — the criteria by which one judges one’s worth as a political leader — the leader becomes willing to endure enormous political opposition and policy setbacks in order to remain faithful to the policy that has become identified with their self-worth,” Keller writes in a 2009 paper titled “Explaining Rigidity and Pragmatism in Political Leaders“, published in the journal Political Psychology.
The whole article is very interesting: