Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon debates, popular pundits have pontificated on the merits of a good-looking candidate. (Obviously, this was not much of a consideration for the country in the Lincoln-Douglas election.) But is this the ultimate example of style over substance? Or, is it simply a reflection of the realities of our current media era? Does the best-looking guy (or gal) always win? Do I sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw yet?
Seriously though, to what extent does appearance matter for the Leader of the Free World? If the most qualified, most compelling candidate happened to be ugly, would we vote for him (assuming it’s a “him”)? Does the omnipresence of the broadcast media compel us toward telegenic pols?
I pondered this question yesterday, as I attended a fundraiser for John Edwards. No, I’m not at the point of making an endorsement just yet, but I do like him enough to toss a few bucks his way. He spoke for about 15 minutes, and spent a considerable amount of time shaking hands and signing autographs thereafter. I think that Edwards is really finding his distinctively populist voice, and his stump speech was pretty solid. And I’m straight as can be, but damn, he is a good-looking guy.
What do you think? Is Mitt Romney more appealing because he looks so good in a ski jacket? Does Obama set your heart aflutter? Is John McCain too weary-looking, or Bill Richardson too dowdy? Would you consider Kucinich except for the fact that he reminds you of Dobby the House Elf?
To what extent does appearance matter? Have style and substance merged in our culture? Is that a bad thing? I’m thinking yes – I’m thinking that Lincoln would never get elected today, simply because of his ugly mug – and what a loss that would be for our nation. How do we get beyond this? How can we cajole the mass media into focusing more on substance and less on style? Maybe if we all read decent newspapers (e.g., the New York Times or LA Times) and listened to the radio (say, NPR) more often, and watched less TV (except for PBS, of course), we’d elevate ourselves? Who knows? Your suggestions are solicited.