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Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024

Do They Have The Right Stuff?

Whitehorn refuses to debate Nickelson in sheriff’s race

Psychologists call it “thin-slicing.” It refers to the ability of individuals to decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness — within moments of meeting you. For example, some say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests it only takes three seconds for someone to decide if they are attracted to you. One-third of employers know whether or not they will hire you within 90 seconds of an interview.

Ninety seconds? Apparently, from several studies that minute and a half gives the employer enough time to evaluate the candidate by their handshake, attire, and even from their first few sentences.

Author Malcolm Gladwell first popularized this concept of thin-slicing in his book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” but thin-slicing is hardly a new phenomenon — it’s part of our DNA as humans. After all, we are called to make dozens of decisions throughout our day with little available information to do so.

Take voting, for example. More and more voters are thin-slicing the personality traits of political candidates when deciding how to cast their ballot — that’s if they cast their vote at all.

That’s because a Pew Research study recently found that 55% of U.S. adults are “often” or “sometimes” getting their news from social media, and those that do are also the ones with the lowest amount of political knowledge and engagement.

But voters who engage with the candidates by watching their political debates or attending live events with the candidates have also been found to participate more actively in the democratic process than others who didn’t. The result is increased inclusivity of a more diverse group of voters that is more informed and empowered to shape the future of their community.

So, when Caddo sheriff candidate Henry C. Whitehorn Sr. said he would not attend any candidate forums with the voters alongside the other candidate for sheriff, John Nickelson, it’s more than puzzling — it makes you first wonder what he has to hide and second, if he knows that his decision not to participate in debates or live events with his opponent could leave voters feeling disengaged and less likely to vote, in the first place.

Surely, he knows all about that thin-slicing and how a candidate forum allows voters to glimpse a candidate’s character just from the candidate presenting their ideas in an unscripted environment.

Surely, he understands these candidate debates are more than just the voters evaluating his resume, but that voters are, instead, observing body language, like eye contact, fidgeting, stiff posture, open-handed gestures, etc.

Surely, he realizes voters want to see how a candidate handles himself when challenged on a public stage — whether you are humble or arrogant, dismissive or tolerant or have the “want to” in you or just going through the motions.

But if Mr. Whitehorn knows all of this, why hide from voters? In the Bible, it says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Mr. Whitehorn said he won’t participate in candidate forums because “it is impossible to have a serious conversation with someone (Mr. Nickelson) who has zero law enforcement experience.” But does that include the voters, who have no law enforcement experience either?

If elected sheriff, will Mr. Whitehorn answer unto himself only, believing no serious conversation can be had with the public?

But look, candidate debates in our country are hardly new — they go back to when James Madison and James Monroe debated for a seat in Congress. For example, the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 drew record-breaking television audiences, indicating the public’s great interest in such candidate forums.

Mr. Nickleson, on the other hand, says he’s all in for candidate forums, however many and wherever they are planned. He seems to understand that the more voters know about the candidates, the more voters will be engaged and less confused and weary of negative rhetoric.

The bottom line is that the voters in Caddo Parish deserve a serious debate between the sheriff candidates — even if the voters have zero law enforcement experience to add.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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