In a district like NY-11, approachability and being down to earth are two major qualities that mark successful politicians. It isn’t the most exceptional individual nor is it the one who is the most articulate that resonates the most with the people of Staten Island and South Brooklyn, oftentimes commonality and regularity are even more important. When I recognized this fact, combined with Congressman Rose’s campaigning style and public appearances, it reminded me of Hogg’s leader emergence theory. Hogg argues that when group identity is salient, the more prototypical person will become a leader. When Congressman Rose is out talking with his constituents or in meetings with groups, it is clear how much he steers away from the assumed haughty nature of politicians. Max Rose paints himself as just another Staten Islander; he isn’t some extreme populist, but he tries to align himself as close to his people as he can get. While some people may fault the Congressman for not “raising the level of discourse” in public interviews or in newspaper write-ups (he tends to use colorful language like calling the national park service “shitty” in a magazine interview), Congressman Rose makes every effort to truly identify with the people and make that point as salient as possible.
Hogg’s leadership emergence theory seems to run true in this purple district full of civil servants, teachers, and people of all stripes. Although Congressman Rose has a bachelors from Wesleyan and a master’s in public policy from the London School of Economics, you wouldn’t be able to tell by having a beer with him at your local street fair – something he is very fond of doing. The three qualities of this group identified leader are the appearance of conformity to group ideals, the likeability or referent power an individual maintains, and their level of charisma. By portraying himself as a man of the people and truly connecting to those he leads, Congressman Rose is able to satisfy all three main criteria of Hogg’s ideology of leader emergence. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming weeks; the Congressman has a few challengers coming up and these early months are crucial to cementing his reputation as a common-man representative to his constituency.