Lead as you and I like

November 5th, 2012

Leadership: It is a concept young adults always hear about. It is a term we are told to emulate, asked to look at in order to help us with finding direction in our lives. Overall, it is a phrase that is overused again and again.

When it comes to determining the leader of the United States, what do Americans look for? We hear a similar belief from a lot of voters, something along the lines of a candidate who understands the issue of the day (in this case the economy). That seems very plausible; who wouldn’t want a candidate that fits these qualifications? However, the American people often seem to use this as a cover for other factors.

In America, charisma tends to be king. Likability is what the voters really crave, someone who can really get the crowd going. Voters got a taste of this when Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008. His youthful image was an inspiration of hope to millions listening to his campaign promises. As he has been moving through his reelection bid this year, he presides over a mixed record topped with a poor economy. By traditional standards, Obama should be in way over his head. Instead, he has continued to lead his less-fascinating opponent, Mitt Romney. Although, in reality, Obama also has far more political experience than Romney, it has been his style more than substance that has so far carried him through this campaign. Likewise, Romney’s approach to his candidacy has probably hurt him more than anything else.

When it comes down to this matter, there are two methods candidates use to woo the public. One is the attractive celebrity image, such as those exemplified by the likes of Dwight Eisenhower (a former-WWII general), John F. Kennedy (a young senator) and Ronald Reagan (a former actor). These men used their popularity and colorful backgrounds to help draw voters to the chance for something exciting and new. These kinds of leaders not only managed to use their skills to get elected, but also managed to erode the burdens of scandal or other political mishaps during their presidencies. As far as legacies go, all of these men are still highly looked upon today as examples of great modern American leaders.

If a super-candidate fails to come along, there is the next best option: the ordinary guy. Unlike the other kind of leaders, the ordinary guy is not always as lucky or as easily remembered, but they are electable. This helped to get men like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and, to an extent, Barack Obama, to overcome great odds and go on to defeat more experienced political candidates. In the case of Clinton and the younger Bush, they used their folksy attitudes and approachability to convince voters that they could relate to the everyday American. In recent years, where many Americans feel that elections are a choice between the lesser of two evils, it would be helpful to be the candidate with whom a voter identifies their beliefs.

Well, here we are in another election year. Seeing that there seems to be no super-candidate, that means the latter option could be prevalent. Whether this is what is right for America is questionable, but it is nevertheless what the American people want.