The American voter is looking for a presidential candidate with pizzazz and an air of adventure who can solve all of our problems.
So far that candidate has not yet appeared on the scene among the many announced candidates now running around the country looking for money and eventually for votes in the 2008 primaries and caucuses.
Hairspray,the new movie opening today across the country, has excitement and is full of fun,dancing and singing. It is entertaining. And, like Hairspray and other movies that entertain us we want to be entertained by our presidential candidates. We want competent, talented and successful people to hold the presidency and while we all look for these qualities we also do not want to be bored by our next president. We want a lively and cheerful president who can also solve all of our problems and who can entertain us with his or her personality.
We also like an air of mystery and adventure in our presidents and presidential candidates. Like the crowds who will be waiting at bookstores tonight at midnight for the final Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) we all like a good adventure story with a good plot. We might all be looking for the wizard who can zap away the terrible war in Iraq; provide universal health care; cure poverty and the host of other problems that perhaps only a Harry Potter could solve.
At the moment we do not appear to have a candidate with the pizzazz of Hairspray and the adventure of Harry Potter.
Look at our presidents who have been popular. Former President Bill Clinton had pizzazz and a sense of adventure. He certainly entertained the American public--for good and bad--while keeping the peace abroad and a booming economy at home. Former President Ronald Reagan also entertained the American public with his cheerful and optimistic outlook. His Hollywood career gave him some pizzazz and he had charisma.
Today, once a candidate announces officially for president they seem to become less popular, most likely, because they lose their sense of adventure and their sense of being spontaneous. They become too cautious in their speeches and actions.
I have been teaching a course in Bologna, Italy and have been out of the country for three weeks barely following the presidential race. However, now that I am back covering the campaign and reading newspapers, the Internet and watching television, I notice quickly that the people receiving the most attention are the potential candidates and not the announced candidates.
I have heard and read more about non-candidates Fred Thompson, Michael Bloomberg and Al Gore than most of the announced candidates.
The announced GOP candidates do not seem to have the excitement and mystery about them that voters are looking for in a possible president.
That is why actor Fred Thompson is doing well in polls with Republican voters when he is not even a candidate. He seems like he might be a straight shooter who says what he feels without consulting focus groups and consultants. Voters feel like they know the tough and crusty character he plays on tv and that translates into a buzz for Thompson as a candidate.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seen as an entertaining character with a sense of adventure about him. He is also seen as unscripted and a person who speaks his mind. Many voters also like the fact that he is a self-made billionaire.
And, former vice-president Al Gore who was seen as somewhat boring and lacking charisma when he was a presidential candidate in 2000 has successfully re-invented himself as a hip person talking about one of the hot topics of the day--global warming. He is now seen as having charisma and being somewhat cool.
Most of the announced candidates in both parties seem too structured and programmed and not that entertaining. They need to loosen up and show more of their personal side.
American voters like candidates who can solve our problems but we also like to be entertained. So far, the right candidate has not yet appeared for the Republicans and a new Democratic or Independent candidate could still enter the presidential race later this fall who might seem exciting and adventuresome and spontaneous--qualities we seem to like in our future presidents.
So, while we may not be looking for a singer or a dancer or a wizard with special powers as our next president we wouldn't mind a little more fun and excitement in our presidential candidates. It would liven up a race that seems to be rather stagnant and, might we say, a little boring at the moment.
Certainly presidential campaigns are very serious affairs but a little more humor, pizzazz and adventure wouldn't hurt especially during the upcoming dog days of summer.