Saturday, March 7, 2009


I don't watch political speeches. I frankly couldn't care less for how politicians come across at a podium. I read in the last election coverage about Sarah Palin's folksy demeanor and Barack Obama's crowd-pleasing delivery of addresses, and I felt that neither signified anything as to how they would actually do as chief or vice-chief of the federal executive branch.

One of the best classes I took when I was in college was an honors class on "Utopias", a small class (around 13 students) taught by a man who'd been president of another college in the state. The thing he said that stuck with me most was "I don't trust charisma." Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines charisma primarily as "a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader)." Wikipedia's article on charismatic political leaders lists Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Mahatma Gandhi together with Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Clearly, charisma doesn't mean someone is not an oppressive zealot or a mass murderer. It just means that they are incredibly good at inspiring people to follow them.

So back to politicians and political speeches...I understand that people generally like to feel inspired by a political figure. However, I personally can not trust a feeling of inspiration to mean that a politician is going to lead me down a path I want to go. I would far rather vote based on knowledge of someone's past political actions and stated campaign promises than on whether they charm me during a speech. So, that is why I ignore campaign speeches. I think that by so doing I'm a better voter because I have to focus on facts rather than feelings and manipulated impressions.

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