Politicians are not optimized for persuasiveness

I once heard someone say that politicians are optimized for persuasiveness. This isn’t true. In a first past the post system like the UK or US, you don’t have to be electable to get into office. If you have good ties in a party you can get a seat in a constituency which is overwhelmingly likely to vote for your side. Manage this and you are essential guaranteed to win every election. From then onward, your ability to gain power is less a matter of getting normal people to like and vote for you and more a matter of your ability to manage patronage networks and relationships with important people within the party. They’re the ones who decide who gets a minister/committee post, not the voters.

Many people were surprised that Donald Trump, a sleazy businessman, could win the US primary, let alone the election. It’s not that surprising when you remember that the people he was competing against were career politicians selected for patronage management, not public speaking.

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