Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Being good-looking with charisma matters when you run for president

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Originally published on on Mon, 04/07/2008 – 8:52am

actor Charlton Heston and politician Dennis Kucinich (Kucinich photo: Getty/Peter Macdiarmid)

Okay, so hope you had fun with my George Clooney for vice president feature from Friday. I loved the reply that wondered if it was an April Fool. I could understand that response, but no, it was somewhat serious.

Clooney has many traits that voters look for in a leader: Charming, bright, intelligent, attractive to women but not in a threatening way to men.

actress Angelina Jolie and actress Susan Sarandon

And it’s not just men. Angelina Jolie and Susan Sarandon are two examples of actresses who are into political and social justice. They are charming, bright, intelligent, attractive to men but not in a threatening way to women.

Ellen DeGeneres can also fall in this category. And if Oprah Winfrey ever really thought about running, she would have a really good chance of winning.

Actors are a logical extension to politicians. They can move people to action, convince viewers that they are someone that they aren’t.

You likely disagreed with his political views, but there were a significant number of people who would have voted for Charlton Heston, who died over the weekend. Heston actually was president — of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003. Heston had looks, charisma, could be charming, and was convincing to a lot of people.

Voters want charisma, an awe — and hopefully good leadership as well, but that seems an after-thought. This is why I thought Mitt Romney had a chance to be the Republican nominee: sure he’s a flip-flopper and rather shallow, but he had great hair.

If you asked whether Dennis Kucinich had a good chance of being president, you got responses that either a) he was too ugly or b) too short.

Height means attractiveness in our society. If you count Gore and Kerry (and we do), the taller candidate has won the presidency every election since 1976, when 5’9″ Jimmy Carter beat out 6’1″ Gerald Ford. The only other time that happened between 1924 and 1976 was 1972 when Richard Nixon (5’11½”) defeated George McGovern (6’1″).

I haven’t found any official markers for the current candidates’ height. But Barack Obama appears to be about 6’1″, Hillary Clinton about 5’6″, and John McCain about 5’7″.

Does that hurt female candidates if they generally aren’t as tall? Well, in the recent TV show, “Commander-in-Chief“, they hired Geena Davis, who is 6′ tall, for the role. Joan Allen (5’10”) was the lead in “The Contender.”

Former Canadian PM Jean Chrétien. Photo courtesy of Canadian Press.

We like to think that the voters are attracted to someone who can do great things, but we are a shallow society. Jean Chrétien was a long-time successful prime minister of Canada from 1993 to 2003. Chrétien also suffered from a birth defect that left him with a misshapen mouth. And I have often seriously wondered whether someone like him could ever be president, simply because of a birth defect.

For those who think Clooney for VP is a crazy idea, is it any crazier than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura being governors or Sonny Bono and Fred Grandy being Congressmen? Heck, we’ve even elected former NFL players Steve Largent (R-OK) and Heath Shuler (D-NC) to Congress. Of the above names, only Bono had previous political experience (mayor of Palm Springs).

We would have a better-run country if we shut our eyes and listened to the top candidates. But we are the country that celebrates Britney, Paris, and Lindsey.


Written by democracysoup

April 7, 2008 at 8:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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