The Charisma Factor
by Diana Workman Miller
Some of you may be too young to remember Bush 41, aka George H. W. Bush, but I’m not. I’ve always loved politics, but Bush 41 was a bore. I remember trying to watch one of his State of the Union addresses in high school and falling asleep. I also fell asleep at a Winger concert once, but that’s another story. Back to Politics. Bush 41 was the last no-nonsense, policy-only President. He served one term.
After Bush 41, America elected Bill Clinton, aka Slick Willy, because no matter the scandal, nothing stuck. Whitewater? Some real estate deal thing… Who cares? This guy had the charisma factor. Monica Lewinsky, the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” girl, whatever. It slid off his back like burnt cheese on a Gotham Steel copper pan. Then, after being impeached but not indicted, and all the front-page news about the blue dress, his time was up. Enter Bush vs. Gore.
Bush 43, aka “Dubya” due to his middle initial, was funny. He talked like a Texan, he screwed up sayings and said things like “Fool me once, shame on (long pause) shame on you? (long pause)” and then “A fool me can’t be fooled again”. People laughed, it was funny, and they loved him anyway. He was elected for two terms as well. Never mind those imaginary WMD’s in IRAQ. He even joked about them at the Yearly Correspondence Dinner. Seriously, YouTube it. Gore, on the other hand, zzzz’s. These are examples of the charisma factor. Enter Barack Obama.
Obama came out of nowhere to be our first black President. He was fly, he could dance, and he used social media, but he was also smart and, yes, he did inhale. He was as exotic as they come, but he had a speech at the 2004 Democratic convention that caused a spark and turned into a fire. He took off his jacket, he even rolled up his sleeves!! And he was funny. His “birth video” was shown at one of the aforementioned Correspondence Dinners (it was the opening scene from the Lion King).
Another year, he used a filter to turn into a demon on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Snapchat while telling people to sign up for Obamacare. His opponent in 2008 was the one and only Hillary Rodham Clinton. Once again, the charisma factor was missing. Obama’s Republican opponent was John McCain. McCain had all the credentials for Presidency, but he was never going to dance with Ellen. And so, again, Obama won.
In July, 2015, Donald Trump glides down an escalator after his wife Melania and announces he’s running for President. Also, that Mexicans are bringing drugs, are rapists, and some, he could only assume, are good people. Whoa. What? Yeah, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Many of us thought it was a joke, but clearly it wasn’t. Trump cleared the Republican field with the skill of a shark in a school of tiny little fishies. Then, it was Hillary’s turn. He called into news shows, said crazy, mean things, and tweeted like a 14-year-old on a sugar high.
On the other hand, Hillary ran a typical campaign: boring, policy only, town halls, etc. Even with the help of Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, and the Queen herself: Beyoncé, she couldn’t defeat the Donald. Some say it’s about what he promised to deliver, but come on, all Presidential candidates make promises on the campaign trail. In reality, they have a House, Senate, and Supreme Court to contend with. My theory, again, is the charisma factor.
If the Democrats want to win in 2020, they need to feel something closer to the Bern. Elizabeth Warren is talked about a lot as a contender, but the charisma factor is missing. The Democrats need a candidate who can read briefings, shape policy, represent us in the world and make us laugh. Someone who’ll dance with Ellen, read mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel, and maybe even sing with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. America wants someone relatable, fun, and outgoing, but also serious and able to return us to good standing with other Global Leaders. I don’t know if the Trump Presidency will shock us into voting for an old guy who laughs a little, but talks policy more and in monotone; but if I had to bet, I’d bet they’d go with the candidate who knew how to make politics fun. My pick would be Saturday Night Live alumni, Sen. Al Franken. Your ideal candidate may be different. Either way, if we don’t elect someone with the credentials and the charisma factor, we may hear the words “President Kid Rock” come out of children’s mouths someday.