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Barry M. Greenberg

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The Likeability Theorem

Posted: 11/05/2012 11:11 am

About a decade ago I created a theorem which led to my creating a course at USC Annenberg which I co-taught for five years. Meaning no disrespect to my students, I hated teaching. Mostly because I was lousy at it. But I loved the idea that I had created a theorem and decided it was just about time for me to pen another. The Likeability Theorem states that no election hinges on the merits of the issues, elections are won or lost based on the likeability of the candidates, our attachment to him or her. That's it. Now I have two theorems under my belt.

The Likeability Theorem is as valid as anything else the pundits are throwing about, and I really happen to believe in it. Texas Tea Party Senate candidate Ted Cruz has the ability to cut through the bull and get to the heart of a matter. He left me slack-jawed after his Meet the Press appearance when he acknowledged that "If it's a battle of personalities, Republican's will lose." But presidential politics has been a battle of personalities all my life, and 2012 will be no exception.

Harry Truman will forever be known for having been a haberdasher. Selling ties made him a common man. It was a story that couldn't be beat. I guess Dewey's wasn't.

Dwight Eisenhower won World War II. It was that simple.

And then there was John Kennedy. He was hot. He screwed around. He was Catholic. He didn't sweat on camera. You couldn't buy that resume. Well, actually his father DID buy that resume, but you get my point.

Lyndon Johnson was a big hat, loud mouth rancher who sat in the motorcade when the president was shot, then got on Air Force One, took the oath of office, flew back to D.C. and started to govern. JR Ewing in the Oval Office. Now that's a story!

Richard Nixon got a pass. I don't know why. Sirhan Sirhan screwed up the Camelot II that could have been. Anyway, there's an exception to every rule, um theorem.

The rich former CIA Director; the actor who wouldn't quit trying to be president; the peanut farmer; all really popular, likable figures.

My favorite: the alcoholic fighter pilot. I mean, what beats an alcoholic fighter pilot? The best part of "Independence Day" was the alcoholic fighter pilot.

Being somewhat of a free thinker, I spent years in LA saying that I was a moderate, which all my friends heard as "Republican." My "rich friends" just can't believe that I'm not voting for Romney. Truthfully they weren't voting for Romney until he was the last Republican standing. They were voting for the Republican flavor of the month for almost a year. No matter what they say, I know they can't possibly like the guy. It's that likeability thing coming into play.

A couple of weeks ago my rich friends in Washington, D.C. went to a Washington Nationals baseball game. They love their Nats. I've been a Mets fan since I was a kid. My rich friends wanted to convince me that I should have watched the debates and should vote for Romney because he has better programs than Obama. Which makes as much sense as marching me into a Nats game and convincing me that I should change loyalties because the Nats have a better offense.

We're expected to be loyal to our sports teams but not to our candidates?

We vote for the guy or gal we like. The most interesting story will out, and Obama, with all his faults, still has the more compelling personality. And now that we've known him for four years, we're comfortable that even if he spends a few bucks, at least he won't blow up the planet.

So, policies aside, and policies are always aside, Ted Cruz will turn out to be right, and my rich D.C. friends will turn out to be wrong. In the personality contest that is politics, we're going to be loyal to the team we like. Logical or not. Anyway, it's my theorem and if Obama wins you'll have four years to prove me wrong.


Barry M. Greenberg has been a celebrity producer for 30 years, and taught The Greenberg Theorem at USC Annenberg.

 
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