Monday, April 21, 2008

On Gravitas, Charisma, and the election

cross-posted to Daily Kos.

I got on the Howard Dean bandwagon right after the disasterous 2002 midterms, and I didn't get off till the bitter end. This cycle, I did not see a candidate like Dean, a galvanizing figure who had two components necessary to move me: gravitas and charisma. Sure, there was plenty of gravitas: Richardson, Biden, Dodd. And there was plenty of charisma: Edwards, Obama, Clinton. But no candidate had both.

Thus, I spent a large part of 2007 trying to figure out whether gravitas or charisma would matter more. I supported Edwards for a time, and then he inevitably disappointed me. I decided I would go with the candidate who really reflected my political positions, regardless of whether he had a shot at winning, and so I gave my support to Kucinich. Kucinich dropped out. I went to an Edwards rally, and he convinced me again to vote for him. Then he dropped out the very next day.

So I was left with Clinton or Obama.

I've never liked Hillary Clinton. I saw her speak once, several years ago, at a Jewish activist conference, and I swear, it looked like she was playing a role, like she was acting. She was so inauthentic, so fake, that it really turned me off.

But Obama had never won me over. He had tons of charisma, but it didn't seem that he had any gravitas at all. Gravitas is a difficult concept to define, but to me it means that you have a solid foundation of knowledge and experience upon which your candidacy is based. Plus, Obama had seriously pissed me off with the whole Donnie McClurkin fiasco.

Faced with the choice between Clinton, who was inauthentic, but had at least some gravitas, and at least a little charisma, and Obama, who seemed like a charisma machine with nothing backing it up, and who had sat at the table with vicious homophobes, I gritted my teeth and voted for Clinton in Oklahoma's primary on February 5th.

Since then, a lot has changed. Hillary Clinton's campaign has been so negative, so vicious, so Machiavellian, that it has really turned me off. The suggestion that her slash and burn tactics are designed to engineer a McCain victory so that she can run against him in four years sickens me, because I honestly wouldn't put it past her.

Obama, on the other hand, has shown a great deal of gravitas over the past few months. His speech on race was an exercise in tact, eloquence, and showed an intellectual depth that I haven't seen from any modern politician. The fact that he wrote it himself is further evidence that there's a lot more to him than I had previously thought.

Plus, Obama has reached out to the GLBT community and has mollified most of my concerns about the Donnie McClurkin fiasco.

If I were in Pennsylvania, I would vote for Obama tomorrow. Because of the way Obama has run his campaign, he has shown that behind his charisma, there is indeed a great deal of gravitas. Because of the way Clinton has run her campaign, it is clear that behind her charisma, there is a vicious Machiavellian streak that is quite unsettling, and that undermines whatever gravitas she might have once been able to claim.

In my view, this race is over. Our candidate is Obama. Let's unite behind him, and get to work on defeating John McCain.