The Nickname Game (politics)

28 07 2008


In graduate school, we had many papers to write. No shocker there, right? But the thing was, supposedly there were two tracks for my department. Either you wrote a thesis or you took the comprehensive exams. I was stupid enough to take the comp track and got that good okie doke, which was that even if you take the comps, you still have a whole bunch of minor thesis papers to write, ie. you don’t have defend them… just get them approved by the department, get your raw data, and write it. Honestly, the only thing that was different was the no-defending part, but by the time you were done, you kinda wanted to defend all this hard work you’d done. Anyway, this is not the point… so let me get to it.


One of my minor thesis papers was a prediction paper. I theorized that you could potentially tell who the next president of the United States would be simply by seeing if and how many nicknames that person received. Okay, don’t get lost yet by thinking it’s impossible. Follow me.


The theory went like this:


First off, it was 2-fold and stemmed from the idea discussed in the Nightly News Nightmare that the media frame candidates as characters, and the public usually acknowledge those characterizations as truthful. My theory took it a step further however, and said that in the election the candidate and the media are in a race to present a certain image or personality of that candidate. For those who succeed in beating the media and presenting a nickname that the public acknowledges, there is success and they usually end up with a pretty likable characterization of themselves. However, not everyone who tries to put forth a nickname will succeed. For those who don’t, if something stands out about him or her enough for the media to seize upon it, they will, whether it’s bad or good. And since the media are looking for short and simple sound bites to represent an idea… how much shorter and simpler can you get then one or two words that represent a caricature of a person?


The second part of the theory involved the public and what it means to acknowledge a nickname. If you think about the people you know in your life that you’ve given nicknames to, they are usually either people you know very well or someone that you feel you know something about them well enough to give them or call them by a nickname. The same applies in presidential elections. While candidates are trying to present a certain image of themselves, we the people have to feel as if we know that candidate or know something about that candidate well enough in order to acknowledge said nickname. Taking that to be true, it’s very telling when the public acknowledges no nickname whatsoever, since they are typically pretty easy to come by.


The theory basically becomes a numbers game. Who can get the most nicknames (or maybe even slogans using your name)? Now, think about the nicknames of the winners of this game so far: In 1996, Clinton had 3 to Dole’s 1: The Comeback Kid, Slick Willie and Bill vs. Bob. Yet, in 2000, Gore only had 1 to Bush’s 2 and Kerry didn’t have any in 2004: Al vs Dubya and Bushie/ None vs. Dubya. Starting from 1952 (what is called the beginning of the modern presidency), out of 14 elections, the predictor did not “work” 3 times. In those 3 times, the nicknames were a tie.


(An important side note to the theory: negative nicknames help the candidate as well. I know, it sounds crazy, but remember I’m trying to summarize 40 something pages of information into a couple paragraphs here.)


So with our election coming up right now and this year being billed as a possible monumental year for presidential politics, who do YOU think is winning the nickname game? Will my predictor work this time around? I will say this (and I actually like Hillary Clinton, so bias presented… don’t kill me lol), Hillary has no nickname whatsoever, and she’s sitting at home, hoping “Baracka” calls her to be his VP.




4 responses

28 07 2008
Country Club Barbie

Hey Baracka! I could think of something much more profound to say, but you know Baracka is my favorite nickname out there right now 🙂 Keep up the good work with the blog 🙂

30 07 2008

Thanx babe!

19 11 2008
5 Random Political Thoughts « Choices, Voices, and Sole

[…] Ummmmm, how about my nickname predictor SOOOO worked out! Someone needs to call me ASAP, so we can get this bad boy […]

17 08 2012
The Nickname Game RE-Visited: Chex Names « Choices, Voices, and Sole

[…] and I give nicknames to the men in our lives, and I even wrote a huge paper in grad school on predicting US Presidents based on the amount of nicknames they garnered while in the public before their […]

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