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The Rule of Reciprocation and the Presidency

A couple of days ago I heard a programme on the radio about the upcoming election in the USA. At one point three people were interviewed a father, daughter and her husband. The father has decided not to vote as he doesn’t like either candidate. His daughter and son in law say they’ll vote Trump. Again neither really like either candidate but the son in law said his decision was based on the fact that he thinks Trump will get things done. Well if you’re going to have to pick one you might as well pick the one you think will achieve something as opposed to the one you think will just be stonewalled. The trouble with this particular choice is I feel this gentleman has got his choice wrong for the reason he gives. I feel that of the two, Clinton will be able to get policies through but Trump will be blocked more than he himself expects. History backs up the theory and it’s all down to the rule of reciprocation.

Now this rule is a basic feature of human behaviour. It seems to be a survival tactic that has come about to encourage cooperation between individuals and even tribes. This is a trait that has been passed down from generation to generation and has been so successful that it is a trait we all have. We, as a species may have died out without it, it is a strong instinct. It says when someone does you a favour you repay it. It is a deep psychological need. You don’t need to know the rule, you just repay it. Now research has shown that a small favour may be repaid with a large favour or visa versa. The returning favour may be requested or be spontaneous. So to get someone to do what you want them to do, do a small favour for them. Then a day or two later ask them for a larger favour and you will probably get it. Remember this rule can be combated if they are aware of it. If they work out what you have done then your initial favour ceases to be a favour and the rule loses all influence. Both candidates will be aware that doing favours brings rewards because of their careers but, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for them both as president, and that’s because of those careers. So let’s look at them individually.

Clinton; originally she worked in law but has since become a career politician and of course wife of a former US President. She was campaigning on health issues as long ago as 1993 and campaigned on health, family and women’s issues until being elected to the senate. She was the first woman elected to the senate in 2000 and was re-elected in 2006. From 2009 to 2013 she held the position Secretary of State. She will know many politicians on both sides of the house, even some of the opposition party, she may even class some as friends.

Trump; A long career in business has seen him build his family business into a major business empire. He certainly knows how to negotiate and get what he wants in the business world. His business interests reach from beauty pageants, golf courses and even Trump branded bottled water. He has tried to enter politics on more than one occasion running for US President but has yet to be elected to any office. He has used not holding elected office to his advantage by claiming to be from outside the establishment and therefore free from the corruption of politics.

With this in mind it’s time to look at some history. Firstly Johnson; As Kennedy’s Vice-President he was sworn into office just two hours after the assassination of Kennedy, he had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1937 and to the senate in 1948. This is a long time in politics and gave Johnson many an opportunity to do favours for people. Once President, this placed him in an excellent position to use his influence. He produced a large amount of legislation in a short time frame and it is not without reasonable assumption the favours owed to him made a difference.

Secondly Carter; Known as a peanut farmer. He actually did have some political experience, in Georgia. First in the Georgia State Senate and then as the Governor. When he became president he had never worked on Capitol Hill and as such had no favours to call in. He had difficulty getting legislation through despite a large majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Indeed he even campaigned on the fact he wasn’t part of the Capital Hill establishment, he was from outside Washington and was indebted to no one. This of course meant that the rule of reciprocation was not going to work in his favour.

Buying someone lunch or voting a certain way in the hope that you will get something similar in the future isn’t bribery. It’s just how politics are done, it’s just how business is done. In fact, you can see aspects of the rule of reciprocation in everyday life, I’ve even had it used on myself. I can remember a neighbour gave me a little something then tried to get me to make a formal complaint about another neighbour’s parrot. Of course I recognised it, and have no problems with my neighbours parrot, so didn’t make the complaint.

So back to the election and policies aside. I would never tell anyone how to vote, especially when the election isn’t in the country in which I reside, that has to be a personal choice. So all I’ll do here is make a statement and that statement is; of the two candidates in the 2016 US Presidential election, Clinton will have more chance of getting her policies into law than Trump will his. That is all down to the rule of reciprocation.

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