where the writers are
The President Next Door

Recently, Mitt Romney’s supporters produced a political advertisement portraying President Obama as the celebrity president.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GijxmrgtUU8). The advertisement shows him dancing, singing, drinking a beer and swearing; all activities in which the general population partakes only he is doing it better, cooler and smoother—the celebrity we all watch and want to be. 

The advertisement juxtaposes the glitzy and glamorous life of talk shows, popularity, and unmatched cool with statistics implying that Obama is the reason that half of college graduates are unemployed and that student loan debt has reached one trillion.  The implication is of course that relatability is at best irrelevant and at worst detrimental.

The creation of this advertisement appears to be in response to accusations that Romney isn’t relatable.  Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, is it important for a president to be relatable?

It seems that the importance of relatability in a president is analogous to the connection one has with a medical doctor.  There are some who having been diagnosed with a disease would want a doctor who could assess the situation and determine the best course of treatment, dismissing the need for the doctor to have a good bedside manner.  Then there are others in the same situation who would also want a competent doctor but who would want the doctor to understand their emotions and needs as well. 

Whether fighting disease or national debt, it is going to be difficult but having someone who empathizes with the challenge makes the bumps and bruises more tolerable.

There are those who will argue that as long as problems are solved and the job is getting done, it doesn’t matter whether the president is one of “us”.  However an argument can be made that if he or she (we’re hoping someday soon) knows what it is like to be unemployed for months or not have health insurance then perhaps he or she will be more inclined to solve the problem. 

Even if it is merely perception, it is important for people to believe in a president’s relatability because it makes him one of us.  And most people want the person serving and protecting them to care and it’s hard to care if you can’t connect.

As a writer, I understand the importance of relatability.  My challenge is to create characters to whom readers can connect, because it is only when they feel a connection that they will care.  And it is only when we care about people that we take care of them.

And the person who promises to take care of us, regardless of what that means to each individual, usually gets the vote.