Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
There has been a lot of talk this week about the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachessets and her likeability.
There are a lot of people excited about the prospect of her running for President, I am. She brings a sharp and focused understanding of public policy to the field, and the ensuing debates will be elevated because of her participation in them.
We need candidates like her in the mix, like Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont, but questions have been raised about Elizabeth Warren’s likeability, some are suggesting that it is unfair to judge her by such a standard, even sexist, or misogynistic.
Likeability is a huge factor in electability, and if it is sexist or misogynistic to judge her by that standard then it was also sexist and misandronistic to judge Al Gore, or John Kerry by that standard when they were running against George W. Bush.
Do you remember the question that was asked over and over again during those campaigns, Gallop even did poling on it: “Who would you rather have a beer with?”
It is a question that is both totally absurd and completely relevant at one and the same time.
If it is sexist and misogynistic to judge a female candidate by her appearance or her hair style, then it is also sexist and misandronistic to judge a male candidate by his height, or baldness.
It would be better if we could all just set aside judgements based on superficial criteria, but not all judgements based on appearance are superficial. Matters that the candidate has no control over should be off the table, a person cannot become taller than they are, but they do make choices about the clothes they wear, or the way they cut their hair, fashion their tupee, and those choices say something about the candidate.
Those choices communicate things to us about the candidate, both intentionally and unintentionally, they say something about the candidate and they are fair game.
Beyond appearances, likeability is definitely a factor in electability, it is not as great of a factor as other intangibles, like moment, but it is a factor nonetheless, and it contributes to moment, boosting it or dragging it down according to the candidates relative degree of charisma.
If elections were won on policy points alone then Bernie Sanders would have won the Democratic nomination. He had better policies and more likeability, but Hillary had insurmountable momentum, and it bore itself out.
If elections were won on policy points alone, then Hillary would have beaten Trump and she would be president right now and America, the World itself would be in a much better place.
Trump had no policies. His campaign was a total fraud, based on cons, scams and lies, he used those effectively to exploits Hillary’s basic problems with likeability, and stole a sufficient amount of her momentum so that he was able to cross the finish line even without having won the popular vote.
Charisma matters, and it is also in the eye of the beholder, but it still matters.
Elizabeth Warren scores very low on the likeability scale. This will hurt her. It hurts her with me.
I would not like to be scolded by her, and when she speaks about the issues she cares about I feel like she is scolding her audience. I would not like to be hear a male candidate speak to the same issues in the same way.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth warren’s run raises the bar for all Democratic candidates in the primaries. If she grabs the momentum, she will have my support, likeability aside.