The Glamorous Obama

 Posted by on 11 June 2008 at 11:04 pm  Culture, Election
Jun 112008

(Note: While I wrote the following before Greg’s amazing post on What’s So Special About Obama, it does offer a serious answer to the questions, “What’s the big deal about Obama? Why does he have such an effect on so many people?”)

In a recent blog entry, Virginia Postrel plausibly argues that Obama’s supporters — including pundits who ought to know better — often claim that he must not really believe his own stated policies because of his glamor, not charisma. She draws the distinction as follows:

Charisma is a personal quality that inspires followers to embrace the charismatic leader’s agenda (an agenda that, in the original sense of the word charisma, is seen as divinely inspired.) Glamour, by contrast, encourages the audience to project its own yearnings onto the glamorous figure. …

When voters motivated by charisma disagree with the leader they’ve backed, they support him anyway and possibly even change their minds about the right policy course. When voters motivated by glamour disagree, they become disillusioned and angry.

That explains much of Obama’s current appeal, despite his lack of any substantial record in politics, I think. People are projecting their wishes and hopes on him, rather than endorsing any concrete policies or clear vision. If that sounds interesting to you, you might want to read Postrel’s a slightly longer article on the topic for The Atlantic.

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