Thursday, July 10, 2008

Affirmation for Two Political Theories Ipopa Tells Everybody Who Will Listen - Part One

I'm excited today. I have two political theories that I've subscribed to for years, and I now have psychological affirmation for both theories from Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating 2007 book, Blink.
Here's the first.

I tell everybody I will never run for office because I fail in the three H’s (height, hair, and hands).

Scanning history in the TV era, one quickly notices that only Eisenhower and Ford have been “bald” presidents. The latter was a five-star general war hero, and the former wasn’t elected to either the vice-presidency or the presidency, and by all accounts, was a bumbling idiot. (Of course, with our current president, it is critical to remember that “bumbling idiot” is a relative term).

Also, I noticed early on the prevalence of tall elected leaders. Mini-Mike Dukakis in the tank still somehow seemed punier than George Bush, Version 1.0, even though Bush’s “gentle speak” could make you feel like he was reading you a bedtime story, not delivering the State of the Union address.

Gladwell's book notes how tall people "make us swoon" because they fulfill what we think a leader SHOULD look like. He notes that while only 3.9% of Americans are 6' 2" or taller, a staggering 33% of Fortune 500 CEOs are. If you ever wondered how some idiot in your office got above you professionally, size him up. Literally. You might have your answer.

Finally, from Bill Clinton to Mike Phillips, the former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, I’d always noticed that when I met somebody with large hands, it somehow inspired trust and made me like the person instantly. In retail politics, these folks have a HUGE natural advantage. Everybody who meets President Clinton says he’s amazingly “charming” or “charismatic.” But, curiously, you’ll notice that people even say this when they’ve spoken to him for five seconds. How can someone be charming with "Hello? How are you?" How does Clinton produce this response?

I say it’s fixated eye contact (he looks at your eyes and won’t divert them, even if he hears gunfire), and his large hands, an effect he sometimes amplifies by placing a second hand on top of yours in a cuplike fashion. I can’t account for it psychologically, but it has to be a Freud-like protective thing, reminding many of us of how our fathers held our hands when we were kids. When Bill Clinton shook your hand, you knew he’d take care of you. (He’d also likely take care of your wife in ways you weren’t too keen on, but the hands didn’t tell you that part).

This is not to say a bald hobbit could never get elected. But (s)he would suffer a substantial competitive disadvantage that could only be overcome by Frodo Baggins-type heroism or Ross Perot-type money. This is also not to say being tall and having hair thicker than a televangelist guarantees victory, as Mitt Romney will tell you.

But all other things being equal, boy, does it help. This isn't theory now. This is fact.

Stay tuned for part two..."How Melina Kennedy Got Lead Astray"....


Share/Save/Bookmark

14 comments:

stAllio! said...

two words: mitch daniels. i've never seen the man's hands, but i'd be surprised if they were large, considering his otherwise liliputian stature. plus, no hair.

thank you, come again.

bb said...

But Stallio, um, duh, who did Daniels beat?? Yeah, Kernan. Also short, also bald, and, relatively spearking, a last minute candidate. Thus no advantage either way. Theory still stands.

Anonymous said...

IPOPA,

When do we hear part two? And who lead her astray? You've intrigued me.

varangianguard said...

Good catch, stAllio!

Of course, this applies most to the post-television era, you know.

Now, I have an image of IPOPA as a balding, small-handed hobbit. But ladies, check out the size of his feet! lol

FrodoLives said...

Stilts and wigs ... the secret to political fortune.

JLT certainly has Mitch in the hair category, but how tall is she? And if she has very large hands, I would still suggest that she keep them out of view....

Wilson46201 said...

Our new progressive Democratic Congressman André Carson is 6' 4" but at 33 years old, bald as a door-knob. I've never noticed his hands, one way or another. He does wear size 14 shoes though...

Anonymous said...

Melina Kennedy got led astray and lost an election that should have been hers. I have a theory who led her astray and led to such an error filled campaign. I am anxious to hear who you think it is.

Anonymous said...

His name is Mike O'Connor

Wilson46201 said...

John Sidney McCain III is only 5' 7".

Another important factor in winning elections is alphabetical position of the last name of the candidate. It's long been my considered judgment that it gives a candidate 3 to 5 percent advantage in an election. In Indiana, candidates are listed on the ballot in alphabetical order - voters are likely to choose from the top of the list...

Jon E. Easter said...

Don't forget some of the early Presidents. John Adams was bald and short as was his son John Quincy Adams. You might add in that they were both...like me...a little round around the middle. Although I am 6'4" and am able to look André in the eye directly.

Anonymous said...

IPOPA:

I don't necessarily buy your argument about the 3 H's. There are plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle who are not blessed with the 3 H's and are captivating.

You should consider running for office despite your H's issue. I hear you are a one helluva pro tem. Shake it up IPOPA.

I also agree with the previous comment that Melina Kennedy's problem was Mike O'Conner. I also think O'Conner was big part of Peterson's campaign problems. Both Peterson and Kennedy resorted to really baseless negative campaigning when there was no need for it. It made both candidates appear like they had no issues to run on.

Anonymous said...

Darn it!! I wasn't going to name who I thought led Melina Kennedy astray and caused her to lose the election but 3 people have now named the person I believe cost both Melina and Peterson the election. Mike O'Connor. If some candidates are not careful, he will cause us to lose some more offices that we should win.

Krau said...

Yeah,iPoPa, but with your seemingly perpetual 5 o'clock shadow, you would always look like you been up all night working hard for the people!!!

Peace

iPOPA said...

Thanks to everyone who has commented.

Understand that I never said that those without the three H's can NEVER be elected. Tom Daschle is an example that it can be done. He's shorter than me, though he does have hair like steel wool, so I'm not sure if that overcomes the height issue. And then, of course, there's Pat Bauer. But the higher up you go, the more difficult it becomes. Pat Bauer is, by all accounts, a brilliant political tactician and a budget genius, but how many of you can see him as your Governor?

Also, using presidents before the television age can't contradict the argument. As has been often said, had FDR been born in the age of television, he does NOT become our president. This country would not have elected a disabled man in the 1940's, and I'm not convinced we would do so even today. And to amplify Mr. Easter's comment, I also do not believe this country would elect somebody overweight. In a TV age, there is no William Howard Taft. I'll sing glowing praises for the person who can find the highest-ranking elected official who is (a) short; (b) bald, and (c) overweight. If it's above city-county councilor, I'd be astonished.