by Conor Friedersdorf
Apropos my complaint that Gary Johnson isn't taken seriously as a presidential candidate, Marc Ambinder has a sharp post that includes this nugget:
People vote for politicians who sparkle, or who harness their anger; politicians who make them proud to be Republicans... or proud to be Americans. This political dimension is related in some fashion to the leadership qualities we expect from a president, although there is not always a correlation between the two.
This is accurate, and unfortunate.
Americans complain a lot about our presidents, and our politicians generally. In a way, however, we get the politicians we deserve given our bad habit of selecting pols based on how likable they seem on television, and disqualifying others for lack of sparkle. Despite my differences with Republicans during the last election cycle, I started to get excited by the voices mocking candidate Obama for affecting the optics of a celebrity, if only because that kind of backlash is necessary before we start selecting candidates based on their experience, policy agenda, and ability to govern.
Then the Republican base embraced Sarah Palin, and all the same people who mocked Obama's celebrity enthused about her star quality. One step forward, three steps back. Gene Healy's book The Cult of the Presidency (magazine version here) is a great first step in pushing back against this trend. Unfortunately, I don't know what the right second step is.