Looking back through the past elections going back to the 1980 election of Reagan, I noticed something about the winners. All but one had charisma. Despite some candidates being more capable and experienced. The charismatic candidates were better able to rile up their voters to get them to come out and vote, coupled with particular pains felt by those particular voters.
Let’s take a look at the elections:
1980: Reagan vs Carter (incumbent)
We had an oil shortage, inflation was high, coupled with high unemployment. Trouble abroad with Iran (hostages), and some other factors. Reagan was a masterful orator and could communicate with the masses. He gains the nickname, “Great Communicator“. He is able to get everyone on his side, wins in a landslide 489-49 electoral votes. Charisma wins.
1984: Reagan (incumbent) vs Mondale
The economy is doing better for some, I still heard rumblings of tough times from the lower middle class. AIDS epidemic is front and center in the news. The First Lady, Nancy, is out and about with say no to drugs campaign. Mondale is not a very exciting candidate and things weren’t “feeling” so bad for the incumbent president. But it is hard for Mondale to compete with the charisma of Ronald Reagan, being obliterated in the general election 525-13. Charisma crushes it.
1988: Bush (HW) vs Dukakis
Ok this is the one election that I felt wasn’t really affected by charisma of the candidates. I mean Dukakis was short and didn’t have the “look” people wanted in a president. Bush is actually quite boring but he gets to ride on the coat tails of a hugely successful and charismatic Reagan. I used to say the Republicans screwed themselves when they passed the two-term limit amendment to prevent another FDR. I think Reagan would’ve easily won a third term. I guess they were protecting themselves from a possible third Clinton or Obama term in the future 🙂 I digress, Bush goes on to win 426-111. We have two pretty boring candidates, for this argument I will give Bush the charisma points. Charisma wins again.
1992: Clinton vs Bush (HW) (incumbent)
Ah my first election, I missed being able to vote in 1988 by a measly one year. So I was excited to begin the process of being able to vote. We’ve entered a new decade. Just coming off the Gulf War, some folks are upset that we went to war. Oil prices spiked in 1990 still fresh in minds. People are still talking about trickle down and supply side economics from the 80s not working for them. A charismatic southern democrat, Bill Clinton. He found a way to engage the young voters. He’s able to charm folks to a win over the incumbent President Bush. Clinton wins 370-168 even with a third party candidate in the mix. Charisma for the win.
1996: Clinton (incumbent) vs Dole
The economy is booming, the internet is opening to public, and gas prices were low, good ole $1 for a gallon. The Dow Jones was hovering in the 5000, by election time it had risen above 6000. Personally, just graduated college in 1995, got a good paying job as a software engineer. The administration wasn’t doing as well publicly though. Despite the scandals happening at the time, like the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton marches to a decisive 379-159 win over the experienced but less charismatic, Dole. Charisma 5 for 5 so far.
2000: Bush (Dubya) vs Gore
The new millennium. We survived the doom and gloom of the Y2K bug where the entire internet was going to just shutdown because of storing years as 2 digits instead of four, nothing happened 🙂 The Dow Jones is well into 10000. Tech is moving a faster pace: Google, founded in 1998 and Amazon, founded in 1994, are both thriving. This is the year I got married, relocated to North Carolina, got a new job, and bought our first house all in the span of 4 months. So the Clinton/Gore administration policies were serving me just fine. The rest of the country didn’t seem to agree with me, well they kind of did. This would’ve been another case where the 22nd amendment hindered a possible third term, Clinton was still quite popular, with an approval rating of low to mid 60s. Despite his approval ratings, Gore was very boring. He was intelligent and a statesman but just bleh. In comes a cowboy, a president you could have a beer with, but has the rough and tough charisma people think we need. This was a devastating election because it was so hotly contested when CNN announces it for Gore only to retract it because of discrepancies in Florida. Ultimately, Bush wins the election 271-266. Cowboy charisma wins over boring statesman.
2004: Bush (incumbent) vs Kerry
Just 3 years after the worst attack on American soil, we are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The economy isn’t fairing very well, after the dot com bust. Gas prices are rising, finally hitting $2. Bush has a pretty high approval rating, in the 60s, coming off his first term and his handling of September 11th. Remember, Bush was the cowboy. We put up John Kerry to be the opposing candidate. Kerry was a skilled politician, but not charismatic at all. He added John Edwards to his ticket which helped a little, but not enough to overcome the cowboy charisma of Bush. Bush wins 286-251. Charisma 7, boring 0.
2008: Obama vs McCain
In 2008, we are all annoyed at the high gas prices rising well past $3/gallon. Ravaged New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina which was hugely mismanaged, and Bush was blamed for it. The economy is doing poorly still reeling from the dot com bust and in the midst of what folks termed, The Great Recession. A young charismatic African-American, Barack Obama, rises from the Democratic party to round up millennials and minority groups with an easy to remember slogan: Yes We Can. Contrast this to McCain which many liberals seemed to like except when he was running for president, he became a different person to appeal to his base. He wasn’t very charismatic, which he tried to offset with his running mate, Palin. These two could not be more opposite. Obama wins 365-173 to become the first African-American president.
2012: Obama (incumbent) vs Romney
Two years after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passes, people are upset at being forced to get health care. The administration bailed out the auto industry, bailed out Wall Street, gas prices are still in the upper $3. But the economy has survived, the Dow Jones hit a low of 6627 in 2009. By 2012, it had rebounded back to 13000. Romney was a capable candidate, especially compared to Bush from 2000. He was a successful governor, he would’ve been a capable president. Romney was missing one thing, charisma. He was no match for Obama’s charismatic speeches. Obama wins the 2012 election, 332-206.
2016: Trump vs Clinton (Hillary)
We finally hit the present. Gas prices are back into the low $2 range. The Dow Jones has climbed above 18000. This was an election purely based on charisma. Donald Trump is able to rile up his base to get people voting. He did it in a different manner, a pretty nasty bully but behind all the nasty things he said, he did have a message that many folks heard. But the Democrats thought that an experienced candidate that could maneuver the intricacies of the presidencies would be enough to win. We missed one aspect, Hillary Clinton was a dud from a personality point of view. She always seemed fake, tried to hard to empathize and I believe that was truly her undoing. Trump wins 306-232. Charisma wins yet again.
I’m extremely disappointed in the outcome of this years election. I still believe that Hillary Clinton was a more qualified candidate. I think she would’ve been tougher than any man could ever hope to be. She would’ve been a hawk in the Oval Office. She just couldn’t convince the people of that, which is equally important.
I firmly believe it doesn’t matter how much you know and how capable a leader you could be, if you lack personality you will NOT win the presidency. You need to have the charisma to be able to rile up your voters in order to increase your turn out. That’s really all it takes now, in this age of social media.
Looking forward to 2018 mid-terms and 2020! I just pray to God that Trump doesn’t destroy everything before then.