As a dual citizen, with both British and American passports, I confess to feeling hugely relieved. My fellow American’s chose a candidate whose stoicism, integrity, and tenacity few of us will ever master, over a candidate whose flaws, blind-spots, biases, and fallibilities made most of us feel smugly better than him.
Biden’s promise is “to be a president for all Americans,” and while his gentle demeanor and conciliatory tone may seem by his supporters to be perfectly suited to the massive task of unifying America, we should all understand that being loved also means being loathed.
The other day a trusted client reported that an entrepreneur who I have never met had declared me to be “very love him or hate him.” In fact, the word he used was ‘Marmite.’ A dark, umami spread produced by Unilever, Marmite is known for being divisive. Foodies either love it or loath it. I happen to loathe it, which didn’t help me react calmly to being likened to it, because, although I totally embrace the idea that the only thing in life that’s worse than being talked about is not being talked about, let’s face it, who wants to be loathed? However, as the presidential elections have shown us, likeability is highly subjective.
I wasn’t surprised when Donald Trump won the race in 2016 and I’d been expecting him to win 2020 as well. Of the two candidates, then as now, Trump was by far the more entertaining to watch – a love him or hate him personality who brings up a lot of emotions. Quite apart from his political stance, his personality is polarizing. In show-business, being despised is even better for viewing figures than being admired. I guess that’s what we mean by ‘car crash TV.’
A recent survey by Whitman Insight Strategies and MRC Data asked American voters to list their most and least favorite public figures. The bottom of the list, receiving a majority of unfavorable votes was Donald Trump (57 percent), followed by Kanye West (55 percent), Mitch McConnell (52 percent) Kim Kardashian (56 percent), and Kylie Jenner (49 percent.)
LeBron James is reportedly viewed as the celebrity who American voters trust the most when it comes to his opinions on politics, social issues, and raising voter awareness. LeBron also took the lead when voters were asked about which famous person did the most to raise awareness around the election. The Lakers star was filmed registering people ahead of the elections, and endorsed Biden on his Instagram handle on the eve of election day.
Being a leader, in any walk of life, means taking a stand. And, whether the stand you take is for gender equality, women’s rights, racial equality, or environmental issues, for every person who admires you and wants to follow your lead there will be another who disapproves of your choice.
As for your personal qualities, just because you go out of your way to be patient, kind, and generous doesn’t mean everyone will love or thank you. Far from it. As the former star of The Apprentice, Donald Trump understands the importance of being relatable to his audience. His producers will have explained to him that there are three ways viewers can relate. 1. They can think “That’s me,” I see myself in that person. 2. They can watch, thinking “I wish that was me,” that person has what I want. 3. They can look on, feeling a bit superior with the thought “Thank goodness that’s NOT me.”
It strikes me that, for all the wealth and privilege he was born into, Trump has always somehow fallen into the “That’s me” category. Neither seeming too intelligent, too educated, or too good looking, he allows the average person to see themselves in the board room or the White House. However, when it comes to the “thank goodness that’s NOT me” factor, he is unbeatable. No matter how many flaws, blind-spots, biases, and fallibilities I know I have, the current President has committed more faux-pas, crossed more lines, and grabbed more women by “the pussy.”
On the scale of relatability Biden doesn’t fare nearly as well. Confessing to enjoying Plato and Emerson makes him occur too intelligent and too educated to be “that’s me,” and while some of us may aspire to be as stoical, tenacious and self-effacing, Biden, like Obama, has a personal grace which most of us know we will never embody.
In a divided America, only a handful of nice celebrities, such as Tom Hanks and Dolly Parton, stand as the great unifiers who nearly everyone mysteriously seems to love, but not hate. The rest of us need to face up to the fact that if we want to be adored, we need to be ready to be reviled.
Having been likened to Marmite, I did some research into the polarizing sandwich spread. Last month, the brand apparently launched a spin-off, Marmite smooth peanut butter. “Now that Marmite smooth peanut butter has landed, it looks like crunchy has some competition,” the brand tweeted, asking the public to vote for either “Team Smooth” or ‘“Team Crunchy”. The results? An all too familiar 52% for crunchy, 48% for smooth. Like Biden, you too may be more polarizing than you would like to be, but it’s simply not possible to be smooth and crunchy at the same time.
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