Letter From The Editor 

Who will win the presidency? The guy who isn't a stiff. Sorry, Romney.

Since 1980, roughly, the beginning of the cable television (now internet and cable television) era, the American presidential contest has become a lot like The Bachelor — reality television writ large. The most likable guy wins. The stiff always loses.

Ronald Reagan was the prototype, an aw-shucks, "common sense" guy who played his greatest acting role as president. He was a natural on camera, a good speaker with a great speech writer, Peggy Noonan. His 1980 opponent, Jimmy Carter, crippled by gas shortages and the Iran hostage crisis, came off as weak sauce — no fun.

In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale took on Reagan. He was handicapped by being a boring stiff and by having the name "Walter." The affable Reagan ate his lunch.

In 1988, the first President Bush had the good fortune to get Michael Dukakis as his opponent. Dukakis had the triple whammy of being from Massachusetts, being short, and having advisers who thought it would be a great idea to have their candidate drive a tank, which resulted in one of the most hilarious visual gaffes ever. Compared to dorky Dukakis, the patrician Bush came off as Larry the Cable Guy.

But then, in 1992, along came Bubba — Bill Clinton — the über good ol' boy. Given the combination of Ross Perot's third-party candidacy and the senior Bush's aristocratic air, Clinton was a shoo-in. In 1996, the GOP threw Bob Dole at Clinton, who swatted him like a gnat — a stiff gnat.

In 2000, the Democrats nominated Al Gore, a wonky stiff who talked about "lock boxes." Up against the latest folksy model from the GOP — George W. Bush — Gore managed to win the popular vote but failed to convince the Supreme Court, which decided he was a stiff.

The Democrats doubled down in 2004, nominating the awkwardest guy they could find: John "Munster" Kerry. He talked like a stiff. He went duck hunting and looked like a stiff. He went windsurfing and looked even stiffer. Bush, despite war, scandal, incoherency, and incompetency, won a second term.

Then, in 2008, came Mr. Smooth, aka President Obama, an orator who could hang with Clinton and Reagan. He was young, likable, had a cute family. He played basketball. Opponent John McCain never knew what hit him.

Now, the Republicans have nominated Mitt Romney, a man so uncomfortable in his own skin, he makes John Kerry look hip. The most recent polling suggests he is in trouble. I say, forget the polling. Just figure out who the stiff is. I think I know.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Comments (33)

Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Report: Memphis Internet Slowest in the Country

Beyond the Arc

Bah Humbug! Memphis Should Have Seen Joakim Noah Coming

Hungry Memphis

The Vault Unlocks New Menu

News Blog

Memphis Man Gets Eight Years for Selling Heroin

Fly On The Wall Blog

MLK50 Tapped to Join ProPublica's Local Reporting Network

News Blog

Council Resumes Business With Six Members

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation