Warren Harding was arguably one of the worst, most ineffectual, most corrupt Presidents in American history. Received wisdom was also that, with a huge influx of newly enfranchised women voters, he won 1920’s election because he was a pretty face. (Hard to imagine looking at that face now, but standards have changed.) I was reminded of Harding’s cruise into the White House, and the hash he made of it, when I saw Drudge link to a WaPo story about the Democratic effort to launch pretty faces into politics:
Maybe Democratic candidate Michael Arcuri is running strong in this Republican House district because he pledges to expand health coverage, balance the budget and raise the minimum wage.
Or maybe it’s his piercing Italian eyes and runner’s physique.
“He is pretty good-looking,” observed Paula Ferrin with admiration, as the 47-year-old district attorney worked the crowd at a local senior center.
“What we want is brains, honey,” scolded her friend Rose Oliver.
“True,” Ferrin answered, “but handsome doesn’t hurt.”
The research is unambiguous that Ferrin is right: Attractive politicians have an edge over not-so-attractive ones. The phenomenon is resonating especially this year. By a combination of luck and design, Democrats seem to be fielding an uncommonly high number of uncommonly good-looking candidates.
The beauty gap between the parties, some on Capitol Hill muse, could even be a factor in who controls Congress after Election Day.
Democratic operatives do not publicly say that they went out of their way this year to recruit candidates with a high hotness quotient. Privately, however, they acknowledge that, as they focused on finding the most dynamic politicians to challenge vulnerable Republicans, it did not escape their notice that some of the most attractive prospects were indeed often quite attractive.
There is a certain logic to the trend. Back in 1994, when Republicans seized power in Congress from Democrats, the GOP had a number of fresh-faced challengers who knocked off incumbents who had grown worse for wear after years of committee hearings and fundraising receptions.
This year, it is the Democrats who have several ripe opportunities to unseat Republicans, some of whom have grown gray and portly during their years in power.
It may be true — pretty faces will win. But it doesn’t take a genius to remember that Churchill and Lincoln, two of the most stalwart, courageous, inspiring leaders in semi-modern history were not known for their beauty.