Thursday, January 10, 2008

Weird Politics

Lois Greiman

Okay, I admit it…I’m intrigued by politics. Not the who will win and who will lose part…well, that too, actually. But even more I’m fascinated by what makes us vote. It seems such a nebulous thing. I mean, I would think we would unerring chime in for the candidate who addresses the issues that most stir us: education or health care or the environment or defense…or whatever. But I increasingly feel that, instead of those things, Americans vote for something more personal. Something visceral and kind of indefinable. Like likability.

Remember just prior to the 2000 elections when they showed vice president Al Gore dancing with his wife. He was, reportedly ‘stiff’ and ‘unromantic.’ The world was aghast, and I actually believe he lost votes because of it. Hilary, on the other hand, saw her numbers rise when she got teary eyed during a recent interview.

I was told that generally speaking the man with the most hair wins the election. Seriously? Not the guy most likely to reduce the deficit and/or green house emissions? Hmmmfff.

And what about looks? How big a role does the candidate’s overall appearance play? I think John Edwards is just as cute as a button, but his numbers in the caucuses aren’t great. Mitt Romney is a good looking guy. And he’s like what…a gazillionaire so that can’t hurt? Can it?

On the other hand, Hollywood’s only offering, Fred Thompson…not so great looking. How much will that affect his numbers. On the other other hand, his wife, his junior by 25 years, is pretty hot. What will that do for him?

Rumor has it Hilary got a face-lift sometime during the past year. Assuming that’s true, what does that tell us? That she realizes the importance of eye appeal, especially for women? Or do we chalk it up to simple vanity? Then there was the cleavage scandal. Oh my gosh…women have cleavage!! Even if they’re presidential candidates? Notice these two photos of Senator Clinton. If your knowledge of her were unchanged and only her picture varied, which version would you be more likely to vote for, the hippy Hillary or the no nonsense Hillary?

Then there’s Mike Huckabee. Apparently he lost over 105 pounds in the past year. That’s a butt-load (literally :) of weight. Would he even be in the running if he tipped the scales at 300 pounds?

This voting thing seems to be a really gut level thing, not something easily defined or understood. So I’m wondering, what makes you vote? Is it really just the issues? Or is there something much deeper, something that we, as human animals, can’t quite put a label on. And if so…is that a good thing? Do women have to look better than men to compete in the same arena? Do we want to like our candidates? Or do we just have to agree with their policies?


Virginia Lady said...

I have always voted for the candidate that had views most like my own. The person who would fight for the things I wanted and not work against them. Of course, no one matches exactly, so there's some compromise involved. Then it's a matter of weighing which issue is more important. (i.e., tax cuts or health care?, Iraq or Stem cell research?, etc)

As for what the candidate looks like, I'd like to think I don't care, but I suspect I would have a hard time voting for someone who was obese, it seems to say they can't manage their own life-how could they manage a country?

They do need to be able to speak well. Someone who is unable to speak intelligently is off my list quickly.

Betina Krahn said...

Lois dear, you've hit the crux of the matter. We don't really know why people vote the way they do. It's "Mystery" of the first order. And, yes, I'm somewhat mystified and uneasy about the reasons I vote the way I do.

I try to vote based on TRUST. . . that is, whom do I trust to stick to their word and try to do the things they've promised. But I know that half of what they promise doesn't depend on them-- it depends on others agreeing and producing legislation or budget line items that make it possible. So if I know that, why do I still act as if I expect them to do what they say they will? Do I honestly believe they'll be up on the hill strong-arming people to make them do what we want? And would I want them to force through "OUR" agenda no matter what opposition?

But the last two elections have brought another aspect of TRUST into play for me. Now I have to wonder which candidate is lying, intentionally deceiving, fear-mongering, and distorting the facts to fit their own preconceived ideas. Now I have to wonder if the candidate is pursuing an agenda set by special interests (like big oil) who really don't have our country's and our environment and our children's best interests at heart. In the 2000 election, I got a peek behind the door of the electoral process and it left me deeply unsettled. Now I'm not sure I trust any of them. . . or even the voting process we use to elect them!

Yikes, that sounds cynical. But as for this presidential year, there's quite a smorgasboard of candidates to choose from. And after the New Hampshire primary, I realized that one of the things I most DIS-TRUST is the way the media behaves. In an effort to fill time and look smart, they practically called the election and assigned a winner before the first major primary!!! The egg on their faces was really gratifying. And thanks to the Daily Show we got to see the pontificating soundbites for what they were. . . big dumb guesses.

So actually, Lois, I wish "looks" was my criterion for a good candidate. I'd go for Hilary (in a sympathy move) with a side of John Edwards. And things would be so much easier. . .

As it is, I'm stuck trying to figure out which is most sincere and capable of bringing people together to work on problems. Anybody got a reliable crystal ball?

lois greiman said...

A crystal ball would be handy. I don't think anyone has any idea what to expect. But I do think the opposite camp is just waiting for someone to surge ahead so they can know who to rip apart.

Is it fair that I judge people by how old their spouses are and/or how many spouses they've had? Or should their private lives remain out of it?

Helen Brenna said...

I vote on major issues, first and foremost, but I imagine I am swayed, to some degree, by appearance and gut feel about someone. Unfortunate, but we do that with everything,don't we?

Lois, you brought up another interesting point about how they rip candidates apart. Being that Bill's already been in the White House, I don't think they'll find much on Hillary.

Michele Hauf said...

I think Betina hit the nail for me--trust. And so far, I'm liking a couple, but can't really decide.

I feel sorry for Hillary. So much is expected of her. And the expectations are ridiculous! The world expects her to put up a brave, manly face, like all the past presidents. But why not relax and show us how the world would look with a calm, assertive, feminine woman standing before us? I'd love to see that happen, but I don't think anyone will allow her to be herself, even if she does win.

Now here's my secret voting criteria. It's all in the fingers. You got it. The longer the better. (And no, don't read anything sexual into that, it's just, what it is.) Bill Clinton has some great hands, with long, marvelous fingers. Bush's hands? Not so much. So far, the forerunner in the finger category is Barack. Nice hands on that man. :-)

Debra Dixon said...

I'm an issues voter but lately I've voted for women at the local level in any race where I can "stomach" our differences because I'm so tired of men in politics. I don't think our country, our children are being considered and I'm trying to put Venus in office in the hopes that it might counteract some of Mars.

On the national stage I have to stick to issues.

One of my clients wrote a book on Jacquelyn Kennedy (published by one of the big NY publishers) and I did some research for a radio show interview she was doing on 1st Ladies. One of the things that surprised me is that most evidence shows that the 1st Lady is not a factor in the vote.

Keri Ford said...

I've been more into the political land mine this year than ever. I'm older and being at home, I'm always on fox news.

I use a gut feeling on the canidates along with their bliefs. A couple of examples:

In the last debat I saw, McCain came across as a donkey's backside to me with the way he kept on and kept on and his tone of voice grates on my neck. And he looks a little mean. After watching the media, it seemed I was alone in that opinion.

What I don't like about Hilary is she so smart, seems to know how to get places, but yet, she keeps failing back on her husband's stint in the white house to get herself in the big chair. that crosses me funny cause it makes me think she can't do things for herself. I have similar sentiment for Obama because he added Oprah (trying to gain votes through somebody else's popularity)

Opposite of McCain, Mitt Romney (sp?) is too nice in the last debate I watched. He wouldn't just jump in there and cut somebody off, but kept trying to polietly interrupt. This is politics, ain't no room for gentle manners.

And I better stop here. I am anxious to see the other canadiates start coming out.

Cindy Gerard said...

Very tricky issue, politics in America. And sadly, I fear that much of the country votes based on impressions set forth by the media - whether favorable or unfavorable. And don't kid yourself. fair and balanced reporting has gone the way of the dodo bird. The slant our newspapers and TV networks place on the facts or lack of them can grossly distort public perception.
Someone sent me an interesting link. It's a quiz YOU take, voicing your views on a number of pressing issues. When you finish taking it, the results will show you which candidate is most in line with your values and priorities. For what it's worth. Here it is. Have fun. If for some reason the link doesn't work, feel free to e-mail me ( and I'll send it to you as a link in an e-mail.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ah, Lois, thanks for broaching the P topic in a way we can talk about it without actually getting political. Because it's surely on our minds these days, isn't it.

As most of you have said in one way or another, voters are being manipulated these days, and they're waking up to that fact, as the New Hampshire results clearly show. Hooray for the folks in the Granite State! They said, take your polls and pundits and put 'em where the sun don't shine.

This business about elections being all about candy--part eye but mainly M&M (media and money)--is scary as hell. If the rest of us don't take a cue from the Live Free Or Die citizens of New Hampshire, our democratic republic could go the way of ancient Greece and Rome in our relative infancy as a nation.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Did anyone see the Stewart-Colbert tandem last night. (Thank Heaven they're back, but they didn't hit their stride until last night, imo.) They were all over the pollsters and pundits. Colbert interviewed Zogby of Zogby Poll fame, which was hilarious. And sad. And encouraging --the idea that there's hope for Americans refusing to march in lock step with what our entertainment news wants to dictate.

Right on, what Cindy said about "fair and balanced." It's an endangered concept. SO ironic that Fox, of all "news" networks, uses that as its tagline.

I gotta say, Huckabee was funny on Colbert last night. He's a likable fellow, but likability is pretty far down on my list of necessary qualifications for the office. It's in the bonus column for me.

lois greiman said...

Debra, I tend to vote for women if I can too. I realize that females can be self centered and nasty, too. But I believe, overall, that the feminine psyche is still more empathetic. Still more in touch with the greater good. I think we have to be to raise children. And while I'm alllll for equal rights, for women in high places, I do worry about the kids. Who's minding the kids? My son, 21, talks about being a stay at home dad. And I think 'Yay for you.' He'd be great at the job. But I don't think most men would. Okay, that got a little off track. But the point is, I think Hillary's got an uphill climb to prove she's up to the task.

So, Keri, I think no one really knows what to do with Bill. His position as first gentleman is unprecedented. Do we use him? Do we pretend he doesn't exist?

Personally, I'd like to see Chelsea more. She strikes me as a strong young woman who could boost her mother's campaign.

lois greiman said...

Just a thought? If you had to guess, which Democrat do you think would be the most 'beatable' should they make it to the final election? Hillary, cuz lots of people won't vote for a woman? Obama cuz lots of people won't vote for a black man? Or Edwards cuz...huh...I can't think of anything for Edwards. Maybe he just fades into the woodwork a little because the other two are so unique.

And how about Replublicans? Who's the most beatable? Romney cuz he's Mormom? Guiliani cuz of his affair/s? Huckabee? McCain?

Personally, I already miss Richardson. He had that old warrior likabililty. :)

lois greiman said...

Kathy, I didn't see Colbert. Don't have cable. But I really wish I did. That seems to be where the REAL news is.

Cindy was so right. The news is beyond slanted and into dangerous. Britney's latest stupidity is so much better covered than the events that are going to change our lives forever.

Christie Ridgway said...

We have Stewart/Colbert Tivo'd (well, DVDR'd) so I'll have to watch them today. I do think looks have a lot to do with it because we naturally like being associated and represented by people who then we feel make =us= look good. I think an awareness of that can aslo help us put it aside to look at real issues and competence.

So far, I vote the mainstream media as the least competent and least unaware of their foolishness and prejudices. Sheesh. Someone has a tear (and other candidates have also recently, Romeny 3x in 3 weeks, where was the massive attention on that?), some other person is a "down-home" type and there are stories about that instead of more in-depth articles/stories on their stances about issues and their plans to attack specific problems.

Okay, let me just say that Chris Matthews is a blathering blow-hard and only shows his stupidity by not getting how misogynistic he has shown himself to be time after time.

There. I feel better.

Cindy Gerard said...

Here Here Christi on your take on Chris Matthews. What a putz!

lois greiman said...

Christie, isn't that weird about the tears thing? I would like to see the candidates soften up a little. But I don't think Hillary can afford to BECAUSE she's a woman.

I've heard stories about how President Bush got elected because he was the person most people would like to have a beer with. Hmmmmmmm????? I've always thought, I don't want to drink with them. Don't want to dance with them. Just want them to lead the country. Just lead the damn country and try not to get us all killed.

Keri Ford said...

Good question, Lois. If Bill becomes the First Gent, his duties should be those of the First Lady.

Would we expect something different from a 'Madam' President vs. a "Mr.' President? I don't, and therefore think he should fulfill the duties he'll have.

I would like to hear more from the canadiates themselves instead of their hubsands/tv personality/ political buddy.

Keri Ford said...

Ack. wasn't clear. On that last sentence, what I was meaning to saw was, I wish the media would focus on the words out of the candidates mouth and how that affects the polls instead of what their people say.

lois greiman said...

No kidding, Keri. Don't you wish you could hear some candid remarks? Not canned speeches and carefully tutored responses?

On another note, we noticed that during the Iowa event Bill was nowhere to be seen. My daughter suggested he was elsewhere campaigning for her, but my husband (who has always been a huge supporter of Bill's) came up with a more interesting...and somewhat lascivious possibility. But then...he brought that on himself.

Honestly, I could never quite decide if I admired Hilary for staying with him or if I thought she should slap him upside the head and walk out.

Keri Ford said...

I was in the 'slap him upside the head and walk out.' group. :)

As I understand it they stayed together for the benefit of their careers. it looked better on him that his wife 'forgave' him and better on her in the longer run-which is now.
thank goodness i'm not in politics cause I just don't think I would'a stayed to better my career.

lois greiman said...

I might have stayed in the marriage, Keri, but he wouldn't have lived out the year. :)

Still, I think everyone agrees that Hillary is one smart chick. Maybe too smart to murder the commander and chief. Wow, what a title. And how crazy-new to see it on a woman!

Keri Ford said...

Very true Lois, I bet he has one heck of an insurance policy! Even more money to fund all those ads! And yeah, Hilary is one smart chick, she wouldn't be where she's at if she was dim between the ears.

Michele Hauf said...

DId Richardson drop out? Awwh! I liked him. He was a tell it like it is kind of guy.

You know what I'd like to see? Hilary and Obama as running mates. Can't decide who I'd slot as President and who as Vice, but I think that would be a nice matchup. If they'd just quit beating on each other, that is.

lois greiman said...

Yeah, Richardson's gone. Sigh. Not enough money. And how stupid is it that money is the determining factor? There must be some way to have free and equal advertising for all of them.

But, Keri, not that I'm speaking poorly of the current administration or anything but...I'm not sure folk have to be real ummm bright between the ears to get to the top. Hmmm?

Keri Ford said...

not too bright? I dont' know about that. I mean, he went in on a govn's salary, which I imagine is decent...but coming out, he set himself up with a real nice fat wallet for him and all his friends!

Not too shabby:)

lois greiman said...

Sigh. Keri, you are wise beyond your meager years.

I've been trying to believe it's not all about the money.