Does the candidate have likeability or charisma?


At my cousin‘s place last Tuesday, where we gather from time to time to swap stories, gossip and share health finds, we fell into a spirited discussion of whom we should vote for for President on May 9.

Most of us have already made up our minds on whom to vote for. When pressed for a reason why, most declared that they liked this or that guy, basta (that’s that); or they liked him for this or that issue that he stands for.

When pressed for my own choice, I played coy like a serious columnist should, and said that I still have to make up my mind. I am keeping my options open in case certain conditions I‘ve been batting for come into place.

Surprisingly, Grace Poe did not come under scrutiny, not one in the group is thinking of even considering her. The issue of her citizenship is huge for all of them.

The question of the vice- presidency was similarly dismissed out of hand. For nearly everyone, there‘s no choice to make, Bongbong Marcos is the one. They have obliterated other names from their minds, sorry, Alan Peter Cayetano.

When we discussed what is the most important factor influencing our choices; some pointed to the crucial factor of likability (likeability is British English); others specified the issues and platforms of the candidates.

Clearly, no one will vote for anyone whom they do not like or is unlikeable.

Hillary’s unlikeability problem
This induced me to finally start reading a book that my sister had recently given me — a new book on Hillary Clinton, that is oddly entitled, Unlikeable, The problem with Hillary.

What? Can this be true of the likely presidential nominee of the Democratic Party; and perhaps the most likely to win the US presidency in November?

Unlikeable was written by Edward Klein, author of the earlier bestseller, The Amateur, Barack Obama in the White House.

Klein is no amateur. He is a former editor-in chief of the New York Times Magazine, and former foreign editor of Newsweek. He knows whereof he speaks. He gets telling interviews and information from people in the know on his subjects.

Klein wastes no time relating what journalists and critics have long declared is Hillary’s biggest problem as a presidential candidate: her basic unlikeability as a person, her untrustworthiness, and her self-righteousness and ferocious temper.

The oddest thing is that while Bill Clinton did most of the transgressing in their marriage, Bill was generally found more likable, even lovable; whereas Hillary, the wronged wife, is considered unlikeable by most Americans.

To help her in her run for the presidency, Bill suggested that Hillary take likeability lessons from, of all people, the celebrated and award-winning film director, Steven Spielberg.

In addition, multiple psychiatric counselors, public speaking consultants, and image consultants were hired to assist in the likeability project.

It was a tough challenge. Hillary’s background explains why she turned out to be unlikeable. His father was domineering and narcissistic.

She confessed to being a misanthrope while in college. She labored under a burden of perfection to please her father. One biographer, Carl Bernstein, wrote that she indulged in subterfuge and eliding and always tried to cover up her lies.

Her attitude to politics is that it is all about sucking up to people whom she considers beneath her and unworthy of sharing her space.

When she suffered a meltdown during the Benghazi hearings and burst out “What difference does it make?” it was just part of a pattern of behavior in her life.

Klein’s verdict on Clinton is crushing:
Candidates who succeeded in capturing the White House – Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – have all had one thing in common: a compelling personality that inspired millions to trust them.

“Hillary Clinton is missing that chip.
“She’s the polar opposite of charismatic.
“She can only pretend to be likeable.”

Different types of charisma
Does this mean only those born with charisma and a certain radiance of personality are destined to succeed in the biggest prizes in politics?

Not quite.

Dick Morris, the famed campaign strategist and author, says that there’s a way to win even if you have zero charisma.

There is no uniform type of charisma. The elusive combination of attractiveness and chemistry is a quality that expands and changes as each new political leader creates his own form of charisma.

John F. Kennedy fixated the world on one style of charisma—young, handsome, sleek, and elegant. But that is not the only kind.

The underlying requisite for charisma is not some mystical attractiveness, but rather that voters agree with you and like what you are trying to do. Says Morris: “Once there is basic empathy with your purpose, direction, and policies, voters will seek out your quirks and eccentricities and declare them to be charismatic.

Harry Truman is a great example. He seemed small in every way as he succeeded Franklin Delano Rosevelt. His voice was high-pitched and harsh, and he was small in appearance. But he gained popularity as his feistiness and willingness to speak plainly endeared him to voters.

Morris’ concluding words give encouragement to those who lack radiance of personality and intellect.

“Charisma is the most elusive of political traits because it doesn’t exist in reality, only in our perception once a candidate has made it by hard work and good issues.”

While all this is surely correct, methinks most people will choose and vote according to who they find most likeable in personality and most appealing in their message.

Bernie Sanders, who is giving Hillary Clinton a huge challenge for the Democratic nomination, has been described by one woman columnist as having just six hairs which haven’t been combed for 60 years.” So there.


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  1. Hillary Clinton has a long, aggressive record on foreign policy…much of the world does not like her for that very reason-her war record.