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Politics & Personality

Posted by Maureen Saturday, January 13, 2007

Recently I have questioned the emphasis on personality and "charisma" that Americans, among others, place on choosing political leaders. A series of events, if I may:

-Sometime last week, someone asked me, "What do you think--Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton?" I replied, "Definitely Obama. Clinton has no personality."
-An article in the latest issue of The Economist about Ban Ki-moon, the new UN Secretary-General who replaced the ever lively and charismatic Kofi Annan. "Mr. Ban is said to be bland, given to platitudes, lacking charisma. Honest, intelligent and diligent he may be (his only hobby is said to be his work), but many fear he is unlikely to provide the strong, inspiring leadership the UN so badly needs."
-Said article led me to consider my experience in Hong Kong, recalling the political elections held during my time there. Seldom to never was a heavy emphasis placed on any given politician's personality--it was about work ethic, and that's that.
-An article in Time about Obama and Clinton: In regards to Obama's well loved personality and energy versus Clinton's political experience but lack of emotion, "[Hillary Clinton] will have to hope that experience trumps charisma, which isn't often a winning hand in American politics."
-A recollection of my aforementioned response to the Obama/Clinton question (with a tinge of embarrassment as I wondered if that's what it's really about.)

Therefore, I'm left with this question--How important is the personality factor when considering our political leaders? Naturally, we desire someone we can "connect with," who appears to relate to us, to feel our pain. But what about when that innate desire trumps hard experience and knowledge? Should charisma be the winning hand in American politics?

What do you think?

1 comments:

Marlies said...

Charisma is how Bush was elected over Gore in 2000, and by connecting to people in 2004. I know, it sounds crazy because personally I think Bush is an idiot, but he won 50% of the voting americans (and you have to admit Gore was pretty wooden during that election--he's def. woken up since then). And Kerry couldn't connect b/c he went windsurfing vs. throwing a football around one Sunday afternoon. Bush bought a farm in TX and eventually ruined its environment b/c he was connecting w/ blue collar voters by driving a backhoe around and "living off the land". I struggled with the 2004 election b/c even though a person might think Bush would be their buddy in real life, do you want a buddy in the white house? Or a competent person to run the country with efficiency, integrity, and knowledge. I don't have an opinion about any candidate right now, But I do base my opinions on their ability to believe/do what they say vs. what the campaign managers think will work. And also the ability to not run smear campaigns. . . .I'm still waiting for both of those things to happen. . . . Can you tell I'm jaded?