YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

September 7, 2012

Charisma and Symbolic Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 6:21 pm
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This blog analyzes the tricks of populist demagoguery as revealed in the Democrat Party National Convention, 2012 (for part one of this series, see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/.)

The Leader flatters the audience and holds them close to him with “family” rhetoric. Both Biden and Obama began their addresses with professions of uxoriousness and adoration of their children and struggling, benighted ancestors. Such first steps in their speeches develops an intimate relation with the audience, who are now “included” in the dedicated happy family. Charisma now emanates from the Leader, for solid family ties are manifestations of the erotic in our natures (while ignoring such obvious items as sibling rivalry or generational conflict).

With such tactics, the deified Leader as either Good Father or Good Mother,  has resorted to powerful symbols, generally symbols that infantilize the audience with promises of unity—a unity that cannot be obtained through rational arguments, for the Leader has jammed together persons and groups with conflicting interests (see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community/).   Republican opponents, meanwhile, are demonized as “splitters” who, in their devotion to cerebration (rationality and empiricism) heartlessly look after their own interests while “hating” and abandoning the target audience, now represented as “the middle class”—notwithstanding its working class elements. And workers are incorporated into “the middle class” through promises of home ownership, better public education, and preferential treatment for minorities and illegal immigrants through such transparent tactics as affirmative action and Dream Acts.

We have seen these tactics before. In the 2004 address to the DNC that catapulted young Senator Obama to celebrity, his main appeal was the vision of unity: there would be no more red states or blue states, only the United States. (Thundering applause.) But that was a childish wish, and not even Charles Krauthammer, the redoubtable critic of Obama’s narcissism (and whom I revere above all other pundits), nails him for this utopian, regressive fantasy.

For real material issues divide our polity: crony capitalism versus capitalism based solely upon merit—the merit of a superior performance or product; government as Big Daddy or Mommy versus local control, self-reliance and personal responsibility; Keynesian demand-stimulus to conquer economic downturns versus unleashing the power of business/free markets through lower taxes, the removal of excessive red tape, and free trade; overweening executive power versus the traditional separation of powers in government.

Above all, the charismatic leader wields magical powers: in describing the President’s role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, Biden declared that the President said DO IT, and justice was done. Bible readers will recognize the Creation of the world and the love of neighbors above oneself.

A man of the People

I have been thinking about pundits and television hosts, even those on Fox News Channel. Why do they not identify populist tactics as I have done? It is not only that they prefer clocking a horse race to significant analysis of the conflicts that really do divide us. It is not only that they profess to be “fair and balanced” as all moderates are supposed to be. Perhaps they too have reached the pinnacles of the media business through manipulating the audience through physical attractiveness and stylishness, but more, through an acceptance of “politics” as they are. Their tactics may be a more subtle form of bullying than partisan Democrats who regularly assault “the money power,” but they are bullies none the less, pleasing the boss and short-changing the audiences that keep coming back for more.

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7 Comments »

  1. […] For instance, the episode of Blue Bloods broadcast December 13, 2013, served the multicultural agenda by showing sympathy for a disaffected Muslim, who had already bombed his local mosque and was determined to bomb thousands of fellow Muslims in a big parade. Why? Losing his job as a computer technician had alienated the terrorist from God and Allah’s plan for his life. But the good King, in the guise of a NYC Catholic policeman, returned him to peace and tolerance by showing him his daughter, a symbol for all the other innocent children who would be harmed were the Muslim not to divulge where he had planted the fatal bomb. Order and inter-religious comity was restored to interchangeable persons of “faith.” (For a related blog emphasizing the power of “family” rhetoric headed by the charismatic leader see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/.) […]

    Pingback by Culture wars, religion, and the (neurotic?) historian | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — December 14, 2013 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  2. [...] a related blog see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/: my response to the rhetoric and tactics of the Democratic National Convention, [...]

    Pingback by “Reality” and the “Left” « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — October 14, 2012 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  3. [...] http://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/ Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Leave a Comment [...]

    Pingback by Index to blogs on populist demagoguery « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — September 10, 2012 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

  4. Clare, you have a point but at least even the most partisan Fox News pundits let the other side have a voice. And the panel on Bret Baird’s show is the best on TV. Krauthammer is, indeed, in a class by himself.

    Comment by Bob Ennis — September 8, 2012 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

    • The point of my blog, Bob Ennis, was that we now live in a political culture dominated by theatrics. I watch Fox News a great deal, and have noted that opposing sides do not necessarily engage each other’s arguments with facts, but take turns, often transmitting the talking points of their respective parties or sects. “Balance” has come to mean fighting without resolution regarding the truth. Krauthammer, as an intellect, does stand head and shoulders over most of his contemporaries, but even he performs within guidelines imposed by institutions. What I am asking for in the media does not yet exist. But Walter Lippmann, in his books between the wars, did lay out an approach to mass media that focused on the difficult matter of who was lying, and indeed proposed that a class of specialists be developed for that single task. They would not make determinations of policy, but would check competing “facts.” Sadly, the fact checkers of today are often partisan.

      Comment by clarespark — September 8, 2012 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

      • The only shows that ever came close to what you suggest were Buckley’s and David Frost’s. We are sadly in a different era. Couldn’t agree with you more on fact checkers but I was surprised as to how much of Clinton’s rhetoric was debunked in the MSM.

        Comment by Bob Ennis — September 8, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

  5. [...] Populism was Hitler’s ticket to power, and don’t forget it. (For part two of this series see http://clarespark.com/2012/09/07/charisma-and-symbolic-politics/.) Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Comments [...]

    Pingback by Protofascism and the Democratic “people’s community” « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — September 7, 2012 @ 8:48 pm | Reply


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