The presidential elections are near. It is perhaps the most important decision that citizens of a democratic country can make. People are already lining up behind their favorite candidate. Each individual has reasons why they prefer a certain candidate over another. The question is, “What are the right reasons?”
John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have been known for their good looks helping them win the presidential elections. History shows us that looks and impressions of candidates go a long way in influencing citizens to vote for certain candidates. On some level, it is almost natural that people look at candidates appearance, impression, and features of their personal lives.
Many think that these impressions tell a lot about the candidates. They believe that the general impression that the candidate portrays shows a lot about their character. The public goes on to believe that this character reflects whether or not a candidate will stay true to his policies. Therefore, they claim that supporting candidates on the basis of their appearances is not something that should be reproached.
Are appearances and impressions valid reasons for the public to vote for candidates? What we see of these politicians is limited to official appearances they make on the media. These official appearances are insufficient for candidates to make a reliable judgment solely based on appearance. Moreover, the so-called impression is prone to manipulation and distortion of the media and is ultimately unreliable.
Furthermore, a candidate’s hair style or his smile takes no part in deciding the direction in which the candidate will lead the country. What decides a country’s next step is its policies. The future of our country is built on candidates’ policies, not their impression. Policies are what a country does. It is their agenda, their to-do list, and the guideline that they are suggesting to the public. Considering these two aspects of basing one’s votes on candidates’ impressions, we should look over how Korea is doing with its presidential election.
One notable difference from previous presidential elections is the introduction of Ahn Cheol Soo, a man of no political background. Previously the dean of the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University, Ahn quickly rose as a possible presidential candidate after the Seoul mayoral elections. His popularity is a distinct example of how much Korean citizens are disregarding policies.
It may be argued that a candidate’s image or impression takes its root from the policies of that candidate. While this may be the case for certain individuals, the Ahn syndrome has shown that this is also not the case in the status quo. Ahn’s approval rate as a presidential candidate was high enough to contend even before he had introduced basic policies and thoughts through his book.
Furthermore, the attitude in which the media deals with candidates and politics is also hindering the electorates from focusing on candidates’ policies. Taking The Korea University Weekly for example, they have posted articles regarding the presidential campaigns since the first semester. Comparing possible presidential candidates to food or movie characters, they were able to grasp the attention of readers. However, by simplifying a candidate’s policies and plans into a mere image, they have contributed to the current trend of voting based on impressions.
Effort first needs to be shown by the public. The general population needs to realize that policies are what a country is based on. Therefore, they must strive to vote based strictly and only on the policies given by the candidates. Obviously, assessment of the policies before and after the elections would also need to be thorough and tenacious to prevent any populist moves from being made.
The media will have to focus more on analyzing each candidate’s policy. Breaking down its need, practicality, and benefits, it must seek to give a extensive understanding of what the candidate will and will not do as a president. It must refrain from blurring candidates’ policies into a mere impression to promote a popularity vote. If efforts can be shown to overcome the lack of awareness and understanding about what we really should know about our candidates, perhaps there might be a hint of hope left for our democracy.