Obama wasn’t charismatic. He was glamorous — powerfully, persuasively, seductively so. His glamour worked as well on Bennis and Zelleke as it did on voters.
What’s the difference? Charisma moves the audience to share a leader’s vision. Glamour, on the other hand, inspires the audience to project its own desires onto the leader (or movie star or tropical resort or new car): to see in the glamorous object a symbol of escape and transformation that makes the ideal feel attainable. The meaning of glamour, in other words, lies entirely in the audience’s mind.
That was certainly true of Obama as a candidate. He attracted supporters who not only disagreed with his stated positions but, what is much rarer, believed that he did, too…
If you think of Barack Obama as a charismatic president, it is hard to explain why his supporters are so angry. He should be able to win them over. But if you understand his appeal as glamour, then his problems aren’t surprising.
With glamour, any specific action that stands outside the fantasy breaks the spell, alienating supporters who disagree.