Relatively uninhibited philosophizings on self and kosmos whenever the mood strikes...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Political Importance of Being Open and Personable
In a recent column, Garrison Keillor writes about taking his young daughter to a children's playground and sitting next to a woman who was watching her own child play. Soon, the woman got up and walked away to check more closely on her child but then turned around and hastily came back to retrieve her purse, as though she were afraid that Keillor might steal it if she didn't.
Keillor confesses that, at first, he felt offended by this woman's actions. But then he thought about it and realized that, as a writer who tends to position himself at the social periphery and silently observe others rather than involve himself in friendly interaction with them, it was only natural that people would distrust this aloof and taciturn stranger in their midst.
Keillor contrasts himself with former Navy SEAL, professional wrestler, and governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura and with Barack Obama. Love or hate Ventura's opinions, people admire his willingness to put himself out there and unequivocally say what he means and mean what he says. People like and trust those who can do this. And this is a big part of Obama's appeal as well. Obama embodies the best of both worlds--detached observation able to astutely take in the whole picture and the ability to engage with any person or group by listening carefully and by saying what's on his gifted mind and in his warm, caring, and compassionate heart.
I think that Keillor may be right about this, and, if he is, I think this may give Obama a bigger edge over McCain than the polls currently show. McCain seems much more guarded, remote, and cantankerous as a person, and I suspect that this contrast will become even more evident when we start seeing Obama and McCain together in "town hall" meetings and "debates."
I'm not necessarily saying that we should choose our presidents according to how forthcoming and personable they seem to be; I'm just suggesting that we shouldn't underestimate the importance of this factor for the voting public.