Dr. Helen

Thoughts on Charisma and the Political Candidates

I am re-reading The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane and it got me thinking about charisma and how it differs in the media depending on whether one is a Democrat or Republican. The general idea of the book is as follows:

The charisma myth is the idea that charisma is a fundamental, inborn quality—you either have it (Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Oprah) or you don’t. But that’s simply not true, as Olivia Fox Cabane reveals. Charismatic behaviors can be learned and perfected by anyone.

Drawing on techniques she originally developed for Harvard and MIT, Cabane breaks charisma down into its components. Becoming more charismatic doesn’t mean transforming your fundamental personality. It’s about adopting a series of specific practices that fit in with the personality you already have.

The Charisma Myth shows you how to become more influential, more persuasive, and more inspiring.

What if the political candidates use the skills in the book such as making people feel that they are important or being present in the moment and it still doesn’t work because the media explains their behavior in negative terms? Or in glowing terms? I have always been wary of the charisma of a Bill Clinton type or an Oprah. They seem to have a lot of followers who overlook the destruction they cause to society. In contrast, anyone who is not a Democrat or liberal is seen as a shifty con artist when the reverse is often true.

In some sense, charisma is media-made when it comes to politics. If the media loves a candidate and he/she uses some of the techniques in the book, then they are said to have charisma and the masses like them well enough. Even shifty Hillary enjoys some popularity in the media. But if you have charisma at all and you are not the media darling, one can come off looking like a dope. Notice the way the media treats Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Rubio is extremely charismatic but you hear in the media that he is green and not ready for prime time. Even conservatives follow suit so that they look “objective.” Ted Cruz really gets a bad charisma rap; there are over 34,000 results just for Ted Cruz’s shifty eyes.

How much of charisma is a result of how much the media likes a candidate or wants them to succeed and how much is under the control of the candidate? In other words, can Ted Cruz change the perception of his shifty eyes or do his politics dictate his lack of charisma with the media? If he was a Democrat, would he be called charismatic and a game-changer? Of course he would.