Why? They win elections.
The most polarized campaign in history was between Adlai Stevenson (12.55)
and Dwight Eisenhower (8.67) in 1952. Stevenson warned in accepting the
Democratic nomination that "Sacrifice, patience, and implacable purpose may
be our lot for years to come."
By contrast, in accepting the Republican nomination, Dwight Eisenhower
promised to "seek out our men in their camps and talk with them face to
face about their concerns and discuss with them the great mission to which we
are all committed."
Can this kind of optimism be faked by spin doctors and speech writers? Only
for awhile, says Fresco. Then the candidate's true nature will emerge. (It may,
however, be possible to compensate for the errors of too much pessimism -- or
too much optimism. See Living on the Sunny Side.) In 1988, University of
Pennsylvania researchers released their first study of optimism and the
presidential campaigns. Their conclusion -- that voters want an upbeat message
-- appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Afterward, Michael Dukakis
rewrote his convention speech.
It was a humdinger -- recalling the heady idealism of John F. Kennedy. Yet
Dukakis couldn't hold this optimistic note, and in the debates began to slip
back into his native pessimism.
The rest is history.
Valerie Andrews has written for Vogue,
Esquire, People, Intuition, and HealthScout. She lives in Greenbrae,