Friday, December 17, 2010

Obama and Passion (Or Lack Thereof)

Shortly after Obama took office, a friend of mine asked if I had watched his speech the night before. I had to admit I had not, and felt like there must be something wrong with me that I wasn't that interested in listening to him.

But now I have come to understand what the problem is. Obama talks to us like he is talking to a college class, or perhaps to a grouop of fellow academics. There is no passion in his voice, nothing that is compelling enough to make us want to listen to him.

Related to this is an interview I read recently with historian Forrest McDonald, whose thesis is that there are two important functions of the President. One is the head of state, the other the CEO of the country. Were Obama only a CEO, he would perhaps be considered extremely competent. But the job entails more than that, you are also the leader of the people.

But McDonald goes further and says that the ceremonial function is often more important than the CEO part. As an example he says that "Jimmy Carter came across as a wimp, and the country was ashamed of itself. We felt weak. Ronald Reagan came in and made the country feel good about itself. We were no longer ashamed of ourselves, no longer afraid to take chances."

McDonald goes on to explain the importance of having a good ceremonial leader, saying "It's a basic, deep-seated, genetically rooted human craving to have a leader with whom one can identify and for whom one is willing to fight and die, to have a leader who symbolizes and personifies the aspirations, hopes, and values of the country."

Many inexplicable results throughout U.S. electoral history can be explained by taking this basic concept into account.

No comments: