Monday, October 25, 2010

Are we ignoring the superficial?

Some traits are all a matter of perception. A person might be considered cheap, while others call her frugal. Another is perceived as mean, but well-wishers call him no-nonsense and tough-minded.

With some traits, the best defense is a good offense. If called a racist, a counter-charge of political correctness might soften the blow. If a public person is called stupid, why not call the accusers elitists?

But what can you do if you are called superficial? If still in high school, the counter-move would be to say, "Well, you're not one of the cool kids and nobody likes you!"

If past the age of consent, your options shrink significantly.

Superficiality has gotten a bum rap. My first blog hero was (and still is) Peteykins, the artist formerly known as Princess Sparkle Pony. He looked at politics and diplomacy through the lens of hairdos, dresses, shoes and accessories. Sometimes it was tongue in cheek and sometimes there was more to it. While the official birth legend of The Other Blog is that I awoke from a nap on my birthday with the concept fully formed, I would never have thought about writing about something so superficial had I not first seen a master do it so well.

Consider the two main statewide races in California. There are a lot of similarities. The Democrats have two career politicians on the ticket, the Republicans have two political novices from the world of business. The differences at the big level are that Jerry Brown is much more of a retread than Barbara Boxer, and Meg Whitman can point to a business record of success, while Carly Fiorina has a lot of baggage about driving companies into the ground and sending high paying jobs overseas.

Both Brown and Boxer are leading in their races, but Brown has been comfortably ahead for about a month while Fiorina is keeping it much closer.

What are we missing? Why is Fiorina a better candidate than Whitman? Let's take a closer look at the superficial.

Meg Whitman looks like hell, and it is within her power to do much better. She's a billionaire, for Lenny's sake! She can't find a hairstylist that can give her hair some body, some highlights, a more flattering cut? I'm not saying go crazy with the plastic surgery like she's some Hollywood wife, but straight white teeth would go over a lot better than crooked yellow teeth.

Fiorina was treated for breast cancer and was bald less than a year ago. Her hair came back in salt-and-pepper and she's making it work. High marks for her stylist and high marks for her dental hygienist.

Moving away from the superficial, I deeply hate the political positions both these women take. Should the polls be correct and both of them taken a beating a week from Tuesday, I'll be happier Meg and Carly lost than I will be that Jerry and Babs won. But if there is a reason why one of these women has a slim hope and the other almost none, the superficial goes a long way to explain the difference.


sfmike said...

I think the way Whitman handled the whole illegal Mexican maid scandal is the main reason she's been sliding in the polls. She'd been putting lots of money into Spanish-language media and was doing quite well with her numbers among Latinos until her fired housekeeper not only went public but was interviewed by a number of Spanish-language media outlets where she really gave it to her ex-boss. Suddenly, Brown's ahead by over 10% in polls.

Matty Boy said...

I was just over at Talking Points Memo, and the poll tracking they show says things started going south for her on Labor Day, about a month before the nanny trouble came up. Everybody thought Brown was making a huge mistake letting her have all the air time back then, but it looks like she talked herself to death.

Anonymous said...

I was just going to say that Jerry Brown has strong roots out there. He can handle the big time. But you make an interesting observation here in this post, one I never thought of and thinking back a little, there is something superficial about Meg when watching her on TV. She's just not a person who appeals to me as a next Governor. Not when matched to what Californians have put forth before.

Abu Scooter said...

It's not surprising to see Fiorina win the one-on-one beauty contest with Whitman -- because Whitman isn't even trying. Her less attractive photos scream, "nerd!" and she's chosen to turn that to her advantage. She gets to be the nerd who rose through the ranks, Horatio Alger-style. While she's at it, she can also take an unsubtle swipe at the current Governor, the very definition of Hollywood glamor. It's a win-win for Whitman; no stylist necessary.

Fiorina, by contrast, is much more conventional. And, as evidenced by her catty remarks about Sen. Boxer's appearance, far more superficial.

WV = cherats. Not sure about the "che," but "rats" describes almost the whole group of Republicans standing for state or Federal office this time.