Wednesday, April 4, 2007/lk
After spending 30 years amassing a political resume and learning the skills needed for one of the more difficult jobs on the planet, whether you become president depends on your ability to interact with yokels. This, coupled with your talent for remembering the price of milk and other grocery items, somehow is more relevant than any preparation you could undertake.
Because all presidential campaigns start in New Hampshire, candidates for the most powerful job on Earth must spend time convincing voters how average they are. Though it has nothing to do with holding the office, we require the leader of the free world to be someone who can pretend he interacts well with diner waitresses and men in overalls.
Due to this quirk in the election process that places the first primary in New Hampshire, politicians begin campaigning there years before the election. Every person in the Granite State (which does not make most lists of "45 most important U.S. states") has dinner with at least three candidates, while the voters in more relevant states get little more than a TV commercial and a fly-over.
Our national policy is apparently "give the least qualified people the most power, then stand back and stay out of the way." These "regular folk" run candidates through a sort of hillbilly SAT which somehow strongly influences who eventually gets elected.
Because of this, New Hampshire, whose chief exports include bait and the only Northerners who like NASCAR, wields more political power than any state in the union. In many ways, that's like making your halfwit cousin the CEO of the family business while the smarter relatives watch from the sidelines.
This makes for wonderful television, as candidates must pretend they like interacting with common folk, kissing babies and discussing issues best left to local town officials. The global problems facing our country never enter the discussion, but whether these presidential wannabes own jeans and flannel shirts plays a vital role in the process.
The people shown on television quizzing the candidates probably do not reflect the average New Hampshire citizen. Unfortunately, TV producers delight in humiliating highbrow city folk, especially politicians, and making them pander to regular people.
As I see it, regular people, as seen on TV, usually have fewer teeth than the rest of us. Additionally, the likelihood of a New Hampshire resident appearing on television during a campaign stop is inversely related to the amount of time he spends on personal hygiene.
Though these folks have done a wonderful job learning how to project their own simplicity on television, they have not done anything to earn the right to crown future presidents. Sadly, the rest of the country, either through laziness or stupidity, almost always gets caught up in the momentum of the New Hampshire primary.
This leaves us with a list of presidents that includes a startling array of dimwits and clods who won the office only because their opponent seemed even more odious. Until the rest of us begin discounting the opinion of New Hampshire, we will have elections where we decide between the two guys most able to fake an affinity for people who consider Keene "The Big City" and Washington, D.C. a far off fantasyland.
Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.