Among my friends, one of the most prevalent reasons for distrusting Obama, even now, is that he’s too charismatic. This argument annoys me to no end, because like any stupid justification, it’s not grounded in fact and ignores information that would have taken about five minutes on Google to find.
Early in the campaign when no one knew who he was, Obama’s charisma was a valid consideration to bring up. Was there any substance to his rhetoric? How would he govern? Did he have the capacity to handle the Presidency? As the campaign went on and he demonstrated that he was competent, this argument became less and less of an issue. And in the months following his electoral victory, he proved that he could act quickly and decisively and act transparently, through his first executive actions and cabinet appointments.
So why is the fact that he’s popular still a strike against him now that we’ve learned that he’s not just an empty suit and he is fully capable of the Presidency? If you’re a conservative and reasonably well-informed, there are so many other points to hit him on. I suspect it’s because most of the people that subscribe to the “popularity makes me suspicious” meme are not well-informed.
It’s an easy argument to make, because most people will consider it reasonable to mistrust something that’s popular. That cynicism appears to most people as intelligence. It’s the same reason people believe in retarded conspiracy theories. It’s the belief that you’re not one of the sheeple and that you’re sticking it to The Man.
During every election cycle, there’s always someone that reminds everyone else that the Antichrist is supposed to charismatic. I guess the implication is that we’re not supposed to vote for that particular candidate, but that conclusion is retarded based on theology. I mean, if a particular candidate is the Antichrist, they’d be in power regardless according to prophecy. So why does that have any bearing on your political views?
The other case study in “popular people are bad” is always Hitler. The fact that this argument even works betrays the lack of informedness among the people having the conversation. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history can explain why. Reagan was ridiculously popular, but American conservatives still worship him. Or how about Roosevelt or Kennedy?
This argument is made even more ridiculous when you consider that most of the people that I talk to are in their twenties. They’re always suspicious of super-charismatic politicians? Who was the last politician with charisma that they would’ve been suspicious of? Was it Clinton or Chretien? George H.W. Bush? Brian Mulroney? For the States, it probably would’ve been Reagan, but none of my friends would’ve been born. For Canada, it’s even more hilarious, because it’s probably be Trudeau.
But this matters because this idea harms good candidates while promoting bad ones. Under this hypothesis, getting people to like you and having a firm grasp of English and rhetoric is bad while oversimplifying issues and sounding like an idiot is good. What other reason is there for labeling anyone who can put coherent sentences together an elitist? Why else would McCain be pressed to choose Palin? Why else would George W. Bush win the presidency twice?
Not supporting a particular politician just because they’re charismatic is just a way for someone to avoid being called out for not actually understanding anything and is a convenient way to avoid having fact bear on their political views while not having to justify it.