I have to admit: when I first heard about Christine O’Donnell, she seemed okay to me. So she was unemployed and spent all her time running for senate. “Good for her,” I thought, “lots of people are unemployed; it doesn’t make you a second-class citizen.”
Then the witch thing was pretty weird, but again; one could argue that at least it shows a sort of open-mindedness which most liberal-leaning people tend not to expect from Republicans. Even in light of all her strange quotes, she still seems like a nice person to me, if a bit odd.
The thing is, (assuming I lived in Delaware, which I don’t) I wouldn’t vote for her based on the fact that she seems like a nice person. Yet, I have to assume that this is why her supporters are voting for her, in the absence of any actual track record.
And then this “I’m you” ad comes out, which I find very interesting indeed. Not because of what she says so much as the design of the ad; it’s not about policy but rather about emphasizing O’Donnell’s “likeability”. (Robert Stacy McCain, a conservative blogger and supporter of O’Donnell, has a good analysis that more or less agrees with mine.)
While it is true that representatives are indeed supposed to represent my interests, I do not believe that they need to be exactly like me to do so. I personally would prefer someone who explained why they were better at certain things than me.
That said, since this is much the same rhetoric used by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and other “Tea Party” leaders, I’m forced to conclude that it appeals to a lot of people.
This all goes back, I think, to the fundamental shift in American politics which I discussed in this post (and which was described much better than I could do by an Anonymous commenter on same post) and this post. People now seem to judge politicians more on their personality, appearance and affability than on their education, philosophy and policies.
I wouldn’t actually go so far as to say that Christine O’Donnell is a remarkably charismatic person (yet), but she is at least the result of the same phenomenon that drives the increasing power of charisma in the political system–it is not anything which she has specifically done that excites people, but rather her very personality.