Eye-Candy Election? ScarJo vs. Romney's mystery "Hell" babe: Does beauty win votes? If so, why?

The Democratic Party today leaked the names of three surprise speakers to appear onstage tomorrow night at the convention: Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Kerry Washington.


Why should we care what they say? Why should three actresses appear at a political convention? Do I have to even answer? Obviously, because they’re attractive:

No one really cares what they have to say. They’re on stage just to be looked at.

The Republicans instead invited crotchedly old actor Clint Eastwood to give a speech, and he’s not going to win any beauty contests, so Fox News had to take matters in their own hands and ramp up the convention’s “babe quotient” by cutting away to an impossibly attractive young Republican during a punch line in Mitt Romney’s speech:

Interestingly, they showed her immediately after Romney joked that he “didn’t want to go to Hell,” implying that her pre-Raphaelite looks could be the temptation that could send him (or any man) there. (To see her in context, see 23:20 – 23:23 in the Fox video of Romney’s full speech.)

But what did she have to do with Mitt Romney or conservativism, other than being a rank-and-file Republican herself? Nothing. Like Scarjo and her fellow actresses, she was just eye candy.

But that brings up a larger question: Why should eye candy matter in a campaign? We’re seking to elect the best leader, not the leader surrounded by the most beautiful ladies.

Bar Rafaeli: Blithering idiot. Not elected.
Golda Meir: Very competent. Elected.

Bar Rafaeli may make the cover of Sports Illustrated, but she’ll never be elected Prime Minister of Israel. Golda Meir, on the other hand, easily won elections to lead the Israelis, despite not looking anything like a cover model. Why? Because she was competent and strong-minded, whereas Bar Rafaeli is a blithering idiot.


But if beauty, or at least the proximity of beauty, shouldn’t matter in politics, why do the political stage-crafters and media-framers keep shoving beautiful girls at us during inappropriate moments?

Is the presumption that some small but still significant percentage of male American voters out there are so stupid and adolescent that they really and truly will say, “She’s hot — I’m voting for that guy!”

I’ve always assumed, perhaps naively, that politics is the one arena where feminine charm doesn’t matter. If anything, to the average person “attractiveness” is generally inversely correllated to “competence,” and that plain-looking politicians are unconsciously presumed to be better at their jobs than the lookers. And the same effect holds true for the politicians’ cohorts.

So I remain mystified why both political parties and their cheerleaders to this day operate on the “beauty sells” principle, as if political ideologies were like shampoo or sports cars.

Anyway, while we all await Scarlett Johansson’s history-making appearance, help me solve this eternal mystery. I have no answers.


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