I watched about an hour total, mostly because my father-in-law has been regularly engaged in this Methodenstreit. Two related facts struck me:
1. I know this is hard to believe, but not every participant did remarkably well from a marketing point of view. Put aside whether or not you agreed with them, more than one candidate was disappointing in terms of voter appeal. Yet these were, for the most part, professional politicians.
2. The two participants who have done the best relating to voters, through the media, are the two former CEOs, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Overall that is true even if you think Trump had a subpar performance this debate.
A priori, you would think that being a professional politician selects exactly for people who can do well in a televised national debate. Yet, from this limited number of data points, it is the CEOs who have the relevant skills.
What should we infer about the relative filters for CEOs and politicians?
a. Do CEOs work with real people more? Or perhaps the CEO filter requires a greater diversity of life experience.
b. Is the CEO market simply tougher, more competitive, and more demanding of talent, given how much money is on the line?
c. Do CEOs have an easier time being eclectic or perhaps talking tough? After all, they’re “the boss” and they can on a regular basis make tough, oppositional decisions in a way that a mainstream politician usually cannot. (Indeed Fiorina and Trump have done plenty of this.) This seems to be a time when many voters prefer eclecticism and outside the box flair.
d. Is there something else about the filtering process for professional politicians? What might that be, if not the ability to be good on TV? You might think “ability to raise $$ from big donors” is a major filter, but I would think the donors would care enough about electability for this to collapse back into the original question of why the CEOs are doing better on TV.
Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector. Take a taller Tom Cruise, subtract Scientology, school him, and put him on that floor — how well would he have done? Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance? How about a smart talk show host?
Inquiring minds wish to know.