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 https://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 https://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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