Glamour vs Charisma

In a great column, Virginia Postrel ponders why both left wing liberals and moderates appear to lose their enthusiasm for President Obama. In her view, it comes down to the difference between glamour and charisma, which she defines thus:

Charisma moves the audience to share a leader’s vision. Glamour, on the other hand, inspires the audience to project its own desires onto the leader (or movie star or tropical resort or new car): to see in the glamorous object a symbol of escape and transformation that makes the ideal feel attainable.

President Obama, mistakenly described as charismatic, is in fact glamourous. The rock star comparisons should have given it off. And, as was bound to happen, the glamour is wearing off under the every day politics of Washington. Every time President Obama takes a position on policy, someone’s projections are proven false. It is inevitable.

A well-established sales tool, glamour is a tremendous asset if you’re running for office. But once you have to govern, it’s a problem. Although charisma can continue to inspire, glamour is guaranteed to disillusion. The only thing surprising about Obama’s predicament is how few people expected it.

However, as I’ve speculated before, I don’t see any of the current Republican challengers posing a considerable threat to re-election, barring any scandals or a deep double dip (which, admittedly, cannot be ruled out). Still, Obama should probably rely less on his glamour, and stake out a policy direction more clearly.

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