Monday, December 11, 2006

Obamatization

On my way out the door at work, the newspaper dispensers display the very liberal Concord Monitor (edited by a cousin of mine from the A&H side of the family), and the very conservative Manchester Union Leader. Their headlines often spin the same news different ways, and this is usually about all the newspaper reading I get in a week.

Today the headlines were remarkably similar “Obama Fever Grips NH,” and “Rapturous Reception For Obama.” My first comment, paraphrased from a cynical liberal at a leftie blog. “Can we observe how he responds to one minor crisis before we elect him president?” Amen, brother.

The breathless excitement is not something common to Republicans, and not always to Democrats. The swooning and heavy breathing were part of the Clinton campaigns, particularly the first, and of course the JFK election. It was present to a lesser extent in the first Carter campaign. No one was swooning, but the man’s likeability was a big selling point here in NH.

It was quite the opposite in the Kerry, Gore, and Dukakis campaigns. Democrats seem to have chosen them more for ideology and a perception of competence than because they were enthused. They complained in some distress, in fact, about how unlikeable the candidates were, and how much it hurt their chances.

Republicans seem to show less variation. They have put forth candidates who were likeable enough, but described more as “amiable” than “charismatic.” No swooning. Dole was seen as an amiable guy, and that’s certainly what one would think of Ford, Reagan, and both Bushes. The GOP requires that candidates have likeability, but are not defined by it. I don’t know what to make of this difference between the parties. Or how Nixon slipped by it. Maybe he was more amiable than I remember, because I was a media-dependent leftie during his presidency.

2 comments:

cold pizza said...

Beware the man on the white horse.

Obama is a momentary distraction--a pretty face for the MSM (which caters to the cult of cute). What is his plan? Where are his ideas to move America forward?

My fear is the election of a President who governs based on polls, not on personal conviction or a strong moral sense. What is Mr Obama?

I expect to see him dissected by the blogosphere long before the MSM hops on board, but I also beleive that there are too many issues in his past that will surface and will consequently kill any hope of a Presidential campaign for at least a decade. -cp

Michael said...

Several comments. I was too young to really remember the Kennedy phenomena. Most of what I get is from history books and fond reminisces of what should have been. Of course, the Bay of Pigs was not really his fault . . .

Nixon's first election was in a very divided electorate. The Dems were stuck with a war that was hard for them to defend. It is the main reason LBJ didn't seek reelection (he was entitled to two full terms). HHH had to pick up the mantle quickly after LBJ folded and then dodged a bullet (poor choice of words) when RFK was gunned down. At that point, Clean Gene was not really a viable candidate and HHH took it away. HHH and Ed Muskie both had likeable personalities, but Nixon took the election in an electoral vote that was in doubt until the next morning (which seemed like a cliffhanger until we saw what happened in 2000). Nixon simply didn't botch the "second chance" he got after being defeated in 1960.

Carter is really an example of what we get when we first embraced the idea of a "Washington outsider". He was perceived as something of a breath of fresh air after Watergate and Ford had trouble shaking the perception (mostly real) that he was an accidental president and didn't deserve another chance. Carter's "Washington outsider" image quickly became tarnished when it became apparant that he attempted to govern by moral authority more than by his grasp of the complexity of the issues. The tarnish was so great that he was soundly routed by Reagan, another "Washington outsider".

The question really is whether we are now tired of "Washington outsiders". Will someone come out of the woodwork? Or will we, for the first time since Kennedy, actually elect someone other than an incumbent or an "outsider", defined as someone who is not currently a member of Congress or came to their reputation as a member of Congress.

Stay tuned. This one could be interesting. But as they said about Howard Dean, Obama may be peaking too early.

BTW, we have a nice picture of Tim with Obama. I'll have to show it to you some time.