My usage of the word “affect” in this article is that of a psychological term used by clinicians to describe their emotional impression of their patients. It is the nonfactual impression that we get of a person, and it is often responsible for how well a politician connects with the public. (Notice that I am transplanting use of the term from psychology to politics.)
If you look, for example, at the affect of Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, it speaks to you and says that you are looking at a good person. Even Mitt Romney (despite his bad positions on the issues) has an acceptable affect that we can connect to and that shows as President there will be some amount of care. This is a psychological test that I am talking about and it is done by merely looking at someone. Psychotherapists are allowed to comment on a patient’s affect where there is a complete absence of fact to support their impression.
For example, when you look at a photo or film of Adolf Hitler or of Osama Bin Laden, you might get the “creeps” which includes a spine-tingling horrified sensation. Such an impression apparently doesn’t need facts to support it according to modern practices of psychology. (Yet in the case of those two examples, the facts to back up the impression of evil are obviously present.)
Purely from the perspective of affect, if you were to look at a film or a photo of George W. Bush, you might think you were looking at Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman, saying; “what, me worry?” In other words, Bush’s affect resembles that of a cartoon character. That apparent lack of strenuous thought was one of the factors that made him despicable as President.
Rick Perry resembles and has the affect of the ex boss I had who was the meanest and most abusive I’ve run into in the more than ten years that I was in the workforce. If Perry lives up to the attitude that generated his intolerant, anti-gay advertisements then I believe his chances of becoming President are close to nil. I don’t believe most of the American public feels the same as he.
The Republican Party has stooped to new lows in the current attempt to retake The White House. In the process of this, they have shown that they are not the party of the future. And, by the way, Newt Gingrich seems to lack an affect whatsoever. Apparently he is so out of touch with himself that his affect is absent.
Most voters probably decide who to vote for mainly through a gut feeling of which candidate seems the most solid. How well a candidate connects with the public is a major factor in their electability. In this category as well as in actual competence, President Obama is ahead of the republicans, and has very good chances at reelection.