Writer of fiction, poetry and essays.

I define anti-charisma as a phenomenon that causes the unlucky bearer to inspire an instinctively hostile reaction in others. If an anti-charismatic person says “Yes we can!”, the response is “You’re not the boss of me.”
Anti-charisma doesn’t seem to be as well analyzed as charisma, but here is my unscientific list of  a few prominent people who I believe have it.

  • Dick Cheney
  • Richard Nixon
  • Bill Belichick 
  • John Kerry
  • Al Gore

Most of them are politicians–Kerry and Gore largely unsuccessful ones, Cheney only successful by joining with a charismatic running mate, Nixon by avoiding debates with other candidates. Belichick, despite being the best active NFL coach, inspires none of the admiration in the national media or fans in general that is expressed for lesser coaches.
The reason I bring this up is because Martha Coakely looks destined to join them on this list. One of the hallmarks, in my opinion, of anti-charisma is that mistakes the anti-charismatic person makes tend to have greater impact than they really warrant, and Coakley is no exception. Whereas Obama could be forgiven for saying he’d been in 57 states, Coakley is mocked far more aggressively for a campaign ad in which “Massachusetts” was misspelled.
Then there are personal factors such as appearance and voice. This ad is a textbook example of a charismatic voice vs. an anti-charismatic one. And Nixon provided a legendary illustration  of what a difference looks make.
To be continued…

Ed Schultz says he’d cheat to win the Massachusetts senate race. Of course, one of the first rules of cheating is not to say “I’m going to cheat now”, so Schultz would seem to be a lousy “dirty tricks” man.

Also, of course, people are more likely to cheat for a charismatic candidate. It’s much harder to make them cheat for an un-charismatic one.

Republicans are already saying that Coakley’s inevitable loss to Brown is a referendum on Obama’s policies. Democrats are saying that she was just a lousy candidate, and Obama’s and the DNC’s policies have nothing to with it.

Based on the charisma theory, I’d have to say the Democrats are right. But there is a problem here: if charisma is so important, how is it that Coakley got the nomination in the first place? As we have seen, she defeated an apparently more charismatic opponent. How can this be reconciled with the theory?

First of all, it must be made clear that Capuano isn’t much more charismatic than Coakley is. If he had Obama-level charisma, this would be a different story.  Second of all, I speculate that charisma becomes a bigger factor the more important an election is perceived to be. In primaries, for a seat that is considered won by X party candidate by default, it matters less, because people don’t even care enough to really investigate the candidates even enough to find out who has charisma. At that level, it’s the close–almost personal–supporters of Martha Coakley and Michael Capuano, not their party or really even any ideology.

Once a campaign takes on an aura of extreme importance, it changes things. Epic struggles and charismatic people complement each other beautifully. If Barack Obama had lent all his personal charisma to the cause of arguing eloquently for, say, fixing potholes in Chicago, it’d be comical. That’s why, as the book Game Change documents, so many Democrats wanted him to run for President. I speculate that charisma doesn’t just help a person get involved in great events, it almost demands them to.

Oddly, however, you can’t lend your charisma to someone else by means of an endorsement. Obama’s campaigning for Creigh Deeds is proof of this. Having someone charismatic testify on your behalf just… doesn’t seem to work. I don’t know why. All sending Obama to help Coakley does, I think, is demonstrate how important the election is.

And that plays right into Brown’s hands.

via The Daily Dish:

“Here is congressman Capuano from Cambridge, rejected in favor of the tired, useless hack, Coakley:”

He does seem more passionate than Coakley. But there’s still no charisma there. And, quite frankly, shallow though it is, looks matter if you want to win an election, and Brown is better-looking than Capuano. 

He might’ve put up a better fight, but I doubt he’d win.

…if the charisma theory holds, anyway.

I’ll grant this is not a perfect comparison, but, c’mon, she speaks like a robot in that video. Brown is by no means stunningly charismatic like Obama, but he totally has what it takes to beat her out in this race. To make matters even worse, he seems to have gotten off that killer blow: the signature line: “It’s the people’s seat”. And he’s good-looking. And he was an actor. And he is running against the incumbent party. This spells disaster for the Democrats. And no, Obama campaigning for Coakley will not help, because charisma is not transferable
At this point, it would be a Truman-beating-Dewey level upset if Coakley won.

My final thoughts on the Harry Reid quote, which I don’t want to spend much time on, since my main point is that the media (of which I am, after all, a member) is over-discussing it. 

The knee-jerk reaction to this over coverage of the story is to say that “the media” is biased in favor of Republicans. This might be true, but I doubt it. I suspect the real reason this story beats out the vastly more outrageous comments of Rudy Giuliani, for example, is that it involves racial issues.

One of the deepest desires of the MSM  is to have a National Conversation on Race. This is a polite way of saying they adore trying to foment discord between races. This element is dramatic, divisive, and, best of all, there is no means of resolving it, because everyone is always whatever race they were born as, so there will always be a wealth of stories about it. If a story is really juicy, it might spawn more outrage, subsequent racist remarks/actions, and possibly even riots. 

This, I’m sure, won’t happen in this case. The only people who would start riots to oust Reid are the Tea-Party people, and they would’ve done that already if they could. Nevertheless, this makes for an exciting, drama filled story that is meaningless and stupid beneath all the emotional trappings.

That’s what the press is built on.