Does a Process of Darwinian Natural Selection Quietly Undergird American Politics?

Have you ever thought of running for political office?


Neither have I.

How come?

Perhaps it’s similar to my own reason. I find the very thought of running for a political office tiresome, for to be a politician means that you have to lie and smile at times when you would rather not.

And I just have zero interest in doing that.

And yet there are people who are temperamentally not averse to either lying or smiling on cue, as the occasion demands. Barack Obama, for instance, does this when he goes to the Midwest and touts ethanol fuels. And Mitt Romney pretends about, well, everything.

Does anybody, for example, seriously have a clue about what Mitt Romney really thinks?

Or John Edwards?

I didn’t think so.

And we know that human temperamental characteristics are, to a large degree, heritable qualities. In other words, when you have a political system that rewards lying and facade, you are attracting people to politics—rewarding them with power and money—for being good at two things:

  1. saying whatever the situation demands; and
  2. narcissistic splitting (putting on a mask that effectively hides what you’re really thinking)

In short, politicians are temperamentally born—not made—for their contingent political climates, and so, what we witness in politics is not just a form of cultural selection, but Darwinian natural selection.

Do you buy my argument?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Does a Process of Darwinian Natural Selection Quietly Undergird American Politics?

  1. supernerd says:

    I just was thinking the exact same thing today, did a google search and found this blog post!

    The way our political system is set up selects for traits that cause one to be good at getting elected, including the ones you mention as well as oratory skill, being able to figure out what people want to hear, and so on. Its similar to sports, where winning traits are selected for; most world class volleyball players are tall, most world class bodybuilders are genetically gifted at building muscle, etc.

    Thus in biology it is survival of the fitest(more acurately reproduction of the fitest) and in politics its survival(or election) of the best at getting popular.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      The Republicans right now seem to be selecting for narcissism and the ability to be shamelessly narrow, non-inquisitive, and stubborn (reflecting the party’s dramatic run to the far right). In this climate, nice guys finish last (at least in primaries).

      I still think that the system, however, biases toward having a nice guy persona in a general election. Romney’s having difficulty with the pivot.


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