First-term Illinois Senator Barack Obama is rather benign as a politician, and entirely unproven.
Mike Huckabee is Governor of Arkansas, a state I often forget exists. He believes in biblical inerrancy—every word in the Holy Bible is God’s word, including those parts from the Old Testament that sanction wife-beating and slave-owning and stoning rape victims for losing their virginity too soon or having sex out of wedlock.
In a country where the most vital political slots tend to get swallowed up by the least competent individuals, cluelessness may give a candidate just the boost he needs. Obama and Huckabee may be untested and breathtakingly insane (respectively); hell, they just may be the two least qualified candidates in the field. But each won his party’s opening caucus going away. That’s because Iowans, like most American voters, tend not to bore themselves with the details.
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are two of the most “positive” candidates in the race. I’ve added scare quotes to distinguish between the ability to give off “positive” vibes and the ability to move our country forward in a positive direction. Caucus champs Obama and Huckabee have enough of the former that they won’t need much of the latter. Their fuzzy sound bite success in Iowa confirms voters would rather go with their guts than take a stab at educating themselves about the actual issues.
In our botched democracy, being “presidential” no longer requires being qualified to do the job. Success on the campaign trail entails minimal political competence. More important are money, charisma, eloquence, aesthetics, and favorable media coverage. That excludes taxi drivers like Mike Gravel, ordinary Americans with civic integrity but no brand name readiness to lease American’s future to China.
Winning candidates plug themselves into a simple yet foolproof formula. They have to be charismatic. They should look like politicians, too. That means they cannot be hideous or chubby or wimpy-looking. Of course, they must play nice with the mainstream media; a sixty-second timeslot on the national news plugs into more American ears than a full year of driving around shaking hands manually. Lastly, politicians above all must take extra care to avoid pissing off corporate sponsors. Anyone who obeys that paradigm will be “frontrunners” soon enough.