The Everyman Candidate: William Henry Harrison's legacy still working after all these years*

One of the most disturbing things about living in Utah is how many people love the Republican party and George Bush. One of the biggest reasons: because he's like me! Do you want someone just like you in the White House? I always assumed that someone smart with an ability to clearly convey ideas was desirable, but apparently not. Apparently I'm elitist.

Judith Warner, in her op-ed yesterday, had this to say:

One of the worst poisons of the American political climate right now, the thing that time and again in recent years has led us to disaster, is the need people feel for leaders they can “relate” to. This need isn’t limited to women; it brought us after all, two terms of George W. Bush. And it isn’t new; Americans have always needed to feel that their leaders were, on some level, people like them.

But in the past, it was possible to fill that need through empathetic connection. Few Depression-era voters could “relate” to Franklin Roosevelt’s patrician background, notes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “It was his ability to connect to them that made them feel they could connect to him,” she told me in a phone interview.

The age of television, Goodwin believes, has made the demand for connection more immediate and intense. But never before George W. Bush did it quite reach the beer-drinking level of familiarity. “Now it’s all about being able to see your life story in the candidate, rather than the candidate, with empathy, being able to relate to you.”

How is that not completely disturbing? Is it too much to ask that the people in charge of my country are smarter than me? I hope they are, because--even if I do fancy myself pretty smart--I think I would kind of suck at governing.

Although, thinking through problems and coming up with the best solutions isn't why we should be voting for people. It's all about personality. Apparently really rural ones**:

It comes down to this: Americans want to believe in the American dream and rising to the top, but at the same time we want to feel like we're better than everyone else, whether through money, education, or just out-ignorancing everyone else. I don't understand "We're for freedom, but we'll always be better than you."

Anyway, because the West Wing applies to everything in modern politics, let's bring up the reelection from season 3. President Bartlet has always been smart, but he's running against a man who trying to relate to everyone else. This is the always-wise Toby's advice:
You don't want to lose as the smartest kid in class who's running against an everyman. But I'm telling you, be the smartest kid in your class...Make this an election about smart and stupid, about engaged and not, qualified and not.
And it looks like this is exactly the kind of election we're going to get this year. Except this time you add age and Obama looks like a precocious little kid. But I wanted the smartest kid in the class in office, and if I can't have a fictional Jeb Bartlet in office, I'll take Obama.

*Election of 1840
**Try to say out loud that without sounding like an idiot.

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