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News Charisma in Presidential Politics (esp. Nixon)

  1. Dec 17, 2004 #1
    The thread about how more people suddenly call themselves Republicans than Democrats got me thinking about how quickly things change in this country. For instance, In 1976, Carter won Texas, and in 1992, Clinton lost Texas by only 3 points. Now, in '76 and '92, the nation probabally was a bit sick of Republican Presidents in general, but it seems more likely that Clinton and Carter did so well in the south (where Democrats before and after them haven't) largely because they were from the south and had charismatic personalities. And, looking in recent history, we've had the most charismatic president win almost every time.

    But then there's Richard Nixon.

    I don't care what you think of Nixon's politics, he's not a charismatic guy. Which leads me to wonder, were Humphrey and McGovern equally as uncharismatic as Nixon, less charismatic than Nixon, or did Nixon win solely on policy and nationalism, even if he didn't have charisma on his side.

    Bassically what I want people to discuss is: How did Nixon win with his personality when every other president seemingly had to win a popularity contest to become Commander in Chief.
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  3. Dec 17, 2004 #2


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    Interesting you would bring this up and cite Nixon. This doesn't always get taught in schools, but the 1960 Presidential election debates between Kennedy and Nixon were the first ever televised debates. Nixon was ill and refused makeup - Kennedy was tan and fit. People who heard the debate on the radio, by a small margin, said Nixon won - people who saw it on TV said overwhealmingly that Kennedy won. And Kennedy won the election.

    Unfortunately, I can't really help you with Nixon vs McGovern, but I'll certainly agree that charisma is important and Clinton had it. And my female friends tell me Bush Jr is good looking and Kerry is not.
  4. Dec 17, 2004 #3
    I thought Nixon lost because he was a criminal
  5. Dec 17, 2004 #4
    He actually won, twice, despite the fact that he was a criminal. It's hard to win in American politics if you're not charismatic, but it's not that bad to be a criminal.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2004
  6. Dec 17, 2004 #5
    Well of course, just look at Bush. :tongue2:
  7. Dec 18, 2004 #6


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    I'm not sure a lack of charisma is a very accurate description of Nixon. In fact, the Nixon-Kennedy debate aside, Nixon had quite a bit of charisma - at least more than Bush,Sr and Carter (in fact, having Ford and Carter back-to-back made some fear that the most significant impact of Watergate was to doom the US to weak presidents forever more).

    Looking back on his whole career, his image as a crook overshadows any charisma he had and he did lose the 1960 debate because of his appearance on TV (but his opponent was very, very charismatic).

    But, he sure had a knack for the comeback. It seemed like every time his political career was down the tubes he'd come back with even more success.

    And he wasn't a criminal until the 1972 election. In fact, if he'd cut his losses and been open about what happened, he would have still won the '72 election.

    Until the coverup of the Watergate break-in, his actions were more along the lines of George W. Bush than criminal. Just dirty tricks to bring his opponents to tears (Edwin Muskie), make sure dirty laundry about his opponent got aired (McGovern's first VP candidate), things like that. In other words, his campaigns had an attitude where something like the Watergate break-in didn't seem that far over the line compared to the legal tricks they were already pulling.

    Admitting it and firing the guys who did it, maybe even letting them go to jail, would have been damaging, but the election was a slam-dunk for Nixon. With some administrations, being loyal is more important than being right.
  8. Dec 18, 2004 #7


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    Nixon had charisma compared to McGovern, in fact I went and saw him speak. Although my brother passed out from the oppressive air and had to be carried out..I did see most of his speach (I was pretty young at the time), he wasn't attractive..but he had charisma..and Mcgovern...Well he had ZERO, ZIP in the charisma department..
    Compared to Kennedy, I think even Clinton would have seemed uncharismatic..Women SWOONED over Kennedy. Nixon had a strange sort of charisma, a vulnerbility, ...not an attractiveness like others..but he did have it(particularly compared to McGovern).
  9. Dec 18, 2004 #8
  10. Dec 18, 2004 #9


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    My point wasn't very clear. The Watergate break-in was a pretty senseless, small-time operation. Admitting the guys that broke into Democratic campaign offices were associated with the Republican campaign wouldn't have cost him the election - not as long as they cut the guys responsible for the planning and execution out of the picture.

    The cover-up was a lot more organized and involved a lot more campaign and government administration officials - all the way up to the president - and wound up being a lot bigger than the original crime.
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