The other day I was talking with an aspiring screenwriter about great film actors. I mentioned Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Marilyn Monroe. The aspiring screenwriter, a young woman, told me that she’d heard of them, seen a lot of their photos on the internet, but had “never actually watched any of their movies.”
I probed further and discovered that in spite of not screening any of these actors’ films, the aspiring screenwriter had formed definite impressions of these “old actors.” Clark Gable was a “real he-man,” Cary Grant “delicious,” Audrey Hepburn “definitely sweet”, John Wayne “that cowboy guy,” and Marilyn Monroe “unbelievably beautiful but like totally tragic.”
It seems to me that national elections follow the same principal. Through fleeting visual glimpses and disconnected bits of information the public gains a strong impression of a candidate, and that image determines what happens in the voting booth — at least for the low-information voter.
Republicans are, by nature and ideology, wedded to the idea of experience as a necessary prerequisite for public office. We talk about a candidate’s fine record as a pro-business office-holder. Or we delve into the amazing personal history of Marco Rubio, or Ben Carson, their up-from-the-bootstraps American success story, and expect rational voters will also be carried along by these inspirational narratives.
But as the aspiring screenwriter’s knowledge of movie acting begins with the cast of Seinfeld and ends with Channing Tatum, many citizens fixate on an ahistorical image. Barack Obama had no record at all. But he had a trim figure, a generous smile, custom made Brooks Bros. suits, and a skin pigment that translated into an image of glamour that was hugely appealing to the American public.
Aware of the importance of image, Hillary Clinton regularly goes under the knife which deducts about 20-years worth of wrinkles and sagging skin from her face. Her dumpy pant suits translate into business attire for the busy gal. Vogue magazine, at the height of MonicaGate, understood that Hillary needed, um, work, and slapped her on the cover with a makeover that was, even by Vogue’s standards, insane.
So: forget experience and accomplishments. The Republican who projects the right kind of glamour with a compelling personal narrative is the one who can beat Hillary. Her image is deeply compromised by her pay-for-play political operation disguised as a charity. And her severe lack of charm is becoming ever more apparent as she shleps her way through the initial stages of her presidential campaign.
Anyway, here are some images to enjoy over the weekend.