Star Power And The Presidency
Americans like their celebrities, their stars of stage and screen…and politics. The analysis of why that is can be left to others. Perhaps it is an inherent societal shallowness or a sense that stardom equates to powerful individuals or leadership. It doesn’t much matter, except to recognize that it exists. We want interesting, charismatic folks to serve as the objects of our collective affection.
Taylor Marsh does an interesting piece today on the Buzzfeed analysis of Mitt Romney stories drawing (far) less interest than Barack Obama stories. In other words, Romney is boring. Obama is a rock star or at least a once-upon-a-time-as-in-2008 rock star.
There’s nothing especially new about this phenomenon. Think back over the past half century. Jack Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama. Each a star in his own right. And star power is not limited to the shining stars. We are fascinated by the dark stars as well. A little larceny in the soul, a bit of the devil’s influence, ramps up the interest. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Lindsay Lohan, “Landslide Lyndon”, “Tricky Dick” or “Slick Willie”.
We like ‘em interesting. Boring and competent won’t do. You can think of George H. W. Bush in that context. Now, I liked Bush the Elder, but newspapers went bankrupt when they led with stories of his doings. He only got interesting after his presidency when he started jumping out of planes to celebrate 90th birthdays and such things. If Barbara had been president, she’d have been re-elected. She had star power.
Oh, back to the point. I’ll get slammed for this by some of TMV’s readers, but I kind of like the idea of Mitt Romney as president. Boring and competent, unable to steal the stage with his personality. That doesn’t sound all bad. Then there’s the criticism that he doesn’t have an actual conviction on any policy issue. I’m ok with that too.
In a republic where certain positions are democratically elected, being willing to float with your fickle constituency isn’t the worst of qualities. People railed for eight years against Bill Clinton’s tendency to decide where he stood based on the latest poll, and now he’s seen as a president to be emulated. Of course, Clinton never failed to entertain, amuse and bemuse us.
My read on all of this is that Obama will be re-elected. Romney just can’t sing or dance, orate or pontificate, to our star-obsessed standards.