Trump’s charisma

Donald Trump’s rise shows a nation woefully descending into a “cult-of-personality” politics that prefers “charisma” over “policy substance.” So says Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens (8/31/15). It is true that a good chunk of the electorate, especially in the GOP, fed up with politicians and unacquainted with policy nuance, finds Trump’s brash style and showy disregard for political correctness sufficient grounds for support. I don’t know if that counts as “charisma,” but if it does, Stephens shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve always put charisma over ideas. That’s why we can flip-flop from Reagan to Clinton to Geo. W. Bush to Obama. The common thread is clearly not ideology. But Obama had charisma over McCain and Romney, Bush looked charismatic with his guy-next-door grin beside the wooden Gore or feckless Kerry. Reagan had charisma in spades over his much smarter opponents. And Clinton’s “aw shucks” swagger could charm the pants off … well, you get the point. This charisma fetish may apply to any democracy without a universally educated populace but is perhaps increasingly acute in the America of reality TV and radio demagoguery, where a good education (if you can still afford it) will get you scarlet lettered as “cultural elite” and cost you that one big break you might have had on the Jerry Springer show.