Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
This is an installment in the series Sex For President, which considers the 2012 U.S. presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the historical context of previous U.S. presidential elections. To read more about the premise of Sex For President, read the first installment: https://americanparser.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/sex-for-president/
This outcome of this election was pretty simple to explain. First of all, Bush’s first name was George, not Herbert, which is one of his middle names. Had the names been switched, the election could have been another thing entirely. No person after Dwight Eisenhower could ever be elected president known as “Herbert.” This is why Marion Morrison changed his name to John Wayne.
Secondly, like Lyndon Johnson, Vice President Bush was riding on the coattails of his predecessor’s charm, i.e. sex appeal. Although many were questioning Reagan’s coherence by this point, he was still generally well liked as a person, even to his political foes. Americans wanted to believe the best about Reagan, just as they wanted to believe again the best about themselves, and George H.W. Bush benefited from that sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia, by the way, is romantic, and romance is sexy.
I’ll admit that the original Bush was no great shakes. But America just wasn’t ready to elect a president with Groucho Marx eyebrows. Michael Dukakis isn’t a comedian, but in 1988, he played one on TV.
Dukakis, a first generation American son of Greek immigrants, bless his heart, just looked a little too ethnic in a nation that was quickly becoming more and more homogenized. For all of the talk about diversity, in a country where even in 2010, more than fifty percent of Americans are still descended from Northern and Western European stock, Barack Obama included, and we are still generally most comfortable electing White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs), or those who look like one, or those who pretend to be. This is why our first president of color is Barack Obama, and not Alan Keyes. Say it out loud. As a nation, we find most sexually attractive those who most fit our genotype. I mean, damn. That’s hurts, doesn’t it?
So. Nation of immigrants? Of course. Government of immigrants? Uh, not so much, at least not in 1988. Today, this issue requires more analysis than it did in 1992. But back before Denzel, Will, and Halle made the A-list, this was a slam dunk. And Democrats took note for 1992.