Thursday, March 23, 2006


Um, Mr. Governor?

I do think Schweizter's success here in Montana can be used as a blueprint for winning back the Rocky Mountain states to the Democrats, but I'm not crazy about the governor's recent comments about how to do that:
"In fifth grade, we didn't choose the smartest kid or the most handsome kid. We chose the most likeable. The Republicans have figured that out. We need good ideas and present them in a way that people will believe. We haven't done that."
Um, Mr. Governor? Look what that thinking got us...
touchstone, I would like to point out that that kind of thinking got us Governor Schweitzer (and I hope dearly, Senator Tester). I don't think the Governor is saying (at all) that we need to glom onto personal appeal for voting success. But if you have all the good ideas in the world, and you're not personally appealing (likable) then you won't get elected.

I kinda view it this way: if charisma stands opposed to competance, then the people will choose charisma alomost every time. The Democrats have put up too increadably competant candidates for President, but neither were really all that likable. The Republicans ran with a likable incompetant, and won (at least the second time). They did so by making it an "either/or" proposition. You can't convince someone that a competant person is likable, but you can obviously convince them that a likable person is competant, at least competant enough. That may be a lie, but if the mundane truths by which we live our lives are written by the powerful, then a lie's as good as the truth, if it leads you to power.

I think what Brian is saying is that charisma and competance are not the antithesis of each other, and Democrats will keep losing as long as we let the Republicans draw that false dicotomy. We need candidates that are likable *and* competant. We need candidates like Brian Schweitzer, like Monica Lindeen, and like Jon Tester.

(I know I'm wordy, and I'm sorry. Does it bug you when people leave comments that are longer than your post? If it does, I'll keep the noise down in the future.)
H*ll, Wulfgar! you are allowed -- encouraged! -- to leave long comments. I will admit that my post was half-joking, but I do think it's crucial to have competent leaders.

When Bush ran in '00, I think the media gave him the benefit of the doubt, assumed that no presidential candidate that acts as dumb as he does could possibly be that dumb. They thought it was an act...

But I disagree with your assessment that Dem candidates were unlikable...well, okay, Kerry was a little funny-looking...but Gore was very charismatic, it's just that the media made him look bad. I mean, he's giving people goose-bumps now -- that's not the boring, self-aggrandizing man were told he was...
There is a difference between knowing it all and being a know-it-all. The problem is not even primarily about charisma, its about communication. Taking complex issues and delivering them in ways that people identify with, and as a result being a person they identify with.

It is literally impossible to vote for a candidate who you know is going to vote the way you want on all the issues, even if you had 30 candidates and knew all of their issue positions. Instead we (from the most intellectual voter to the most casual) vote for the one that over all seems like our type of guy/gal.

It is the communication of that sense that is critically important. Its what Clinton could do better than anyone. What Schweitzer can do. What Pat Williams can do.

We win when we communicate what we believe authenticly without pandering to or looking down on the voters.
That's true, Anon. Charisma is crucial. Clinton definitely had it. He was also a skillful politician.

Any favorites for the national ticket that match these criteria?
I really struggle with this. On the one hand, I understand that the old saw about "Which one would I rather have a beer with?" still holds some truth in vast swathes of the country. To an extent, you have to recognize and deal with that. On the other hand, are we as a nation really so anti-intellectual and accustomed to being talked down to that we just can't deal with a cerebral, erudite candidate? Recent history would seem to suggest it.

Clinton, of course, was a wonk, but I think he sneaked in because he did enough stupid things that people figured he couldn't be all *that* smart...

I guess what I'm saying is that I resent that our politics are so similar to student council elections in junior high--it's not about what you know but who likes you.
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