Friday, August 20, 2010

Personality Packs a Punch

Adrian Fenty, mayor of Washington, DC, normally would have no problem getting re-elected (or rather winning the Democratic primary, since the Democrats rule DC pretty much completely) this year. According to the Washington City Paper:

A political scientist would label the mayor a shoo-in: The city’s population is growing. People are generally happy with city services. Murders are down. And there’s no imminent cliff the city’s about to drive off.

So what's the problem?

They don’t like him. They really, really don’t like him.

[Emphasis in original.]

"They" are City Council members (whose chair, Vincent Gray, is reputed to have a decent chance of toppling Fenty), political activists, engaged citizens and last but certainly not least his staffers.

They describe him in terms like "arrogant pri[g]," "brat" and "spoiled child". Staffers, in particular, have blood-curdling stories about Fenty's behavior that - if true - describe flat-out abuse.

Fenty's supporters say yes, he can be a bit prickly and standoffish at times. But it's for a good cause - he's staying focused on his work. As for his explosions, that's how he keeps a sometimes fractious city bureaucracy in line.

In other words, they're hoping voters will focus on his technical skills and tangible achievements. Fenty & Company might have to think again:

"Does the guy deserve, based on performance, to win again? Yes, absolutely," says one [Fenty staffer]. (The staffer is leaning toward voting for Gray anyway.)

In other words, even someone who can step back and say that Febty's performance deserves re-election is likely to vote for the other guy.

What better evidence is there that personality prevails over performance?

And this is an office where Fenty can at least appeal to voters who don't know him personally. Most of us live or die on the judgments of those who not only have met us but also regularly interact with us. You can have the best performance numbers in the world, but if many people don't like your personality you're risking a serious fall.

No comments: