December 20, 2003


Professor Bunyip predicted back in October a Johnny Weissmuller reference from living-in-the-past Phillip Adams. As foretold, Phillip delivered. And, despite the fact that most of his audience has no idea who he’s talking about, Adams continues to use as a cultural touchstone a man now dead for nearly twenty years:

As the election of Johnny Weissmuller as Governor of California reminds us, the evolutionary imperative favours leaders that look like leaders ...

We’ll have to wait another two decades before Adams corrects last week’s plastic turkey story. Longer, possibly. Adams never corrects anything. While we're future-gazing, Marian Wilkinson’s predictions aren’t to be trusted:

With pictures of a beaten Saddam dominating their TV screens, Americans are more accepting of these casualties. This week Mr Bush's approval rating climbed to 58 per cent - about where they were after Saddam was toppled. But this could soon drop if most Americans think soldiers are being killed and injured in Iraq for no great purpose.

She wishes.

UPDATE. The Wisconsin State Journal might be closer to the mark:

It's still early in the campaign season, but it does indeed look bad for the Democrats. Their frontrunner is a dissembling mess. The Iraq war is not currently a winning issue. Wisconsin voters, and citizens across the nation, appear unenthusiastic about any of the nine Democrats when compared to President Bush. National party leadership is divided between angry insurgents and impotent stalwarts.

Add one more factor - a likely landslide loss to the Republican incumbent next November - and the self-immolation of the Democratic Party should be at full flame.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 20, 2003 03:05 AM

Actually, my colleagues and I have done a great deal of research that says Phat Phil is at least right about the part where we elect leaders who look like leaders. All other things being equal, it is easy to predict who will be elected by how well they match certain (evolutionarily useful) facial traits.

For instance, facial symmetry is an indicator of good health and of electability. Testerone indicators are good both to determine mature adulthood in males and non-electability when missing. There are many other, more secondary indicators, but those two are incredibly important.

Just as an aside, Bill Clinton is the most symmetrical pol we ever tested, but Gore and Bush were close and had almost identical scores. I'm not doing the current testing, so I can't say among the 9 Democratic contenders, although I would argue that Kucinich suffers from neotony ("baby-face" or looking like Tweety Bird) too much to be electable even if he made sense. Joe Lieberman has problems with testerone markers, and Kerry has some fairly bad health indicator scores. Dean, Clark, and Gephardt appear to fare well.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at December 20, 2003 at 03:21 AM

Fascinating stuff, Jorg. I keep telling people that ultimately, most folks are just instinct-driven animals.

How about height? I think one-on-one television debates where both men fill the screen at once gives a huge advantage to the candidate who is noticably taller.

Posted by: Dave S. at December 20, 2003 at 06:31 AM

Buster Crabbe kicks Johnny Weissmuller's butt.

Posted by: Ken Summers at December 20, 2003 at 08:46 AM

In a related note, I read where Gandalf's poll numbers went up after the fall of Sauron, but the support is certainly shaky -- those numbers could dip if the Elves begin to think that the warriors' deaths serve no pupose...

Posted by: Jerry at December 20, 2003 at 08:53 AM

It's probably true looks count for a lot. I've read that if TV were around Abe Lincoln may not have been elected.

It must be a subconscious thing though. I've never heard anyone give 'looks' as the reason they voted for someone.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at December 20, 2003 at 09:30 AM

I am amazed that the Wisconsin State Journal should print anything even remotely critical of Dean. The "other" WSJ is printed in Madison, Wisconsin, aka "Mad City", the state capitol, where the state university is located; it's home to some of the nuttiest lefties to be found between the coasts. If the WSJ prints stuff like this, you can stick a fork in Dean: he's done.

Posted by: Brown Line at December 21, 2003 at 02:24 AM

Dean's toast. Toasty toast. Especially with the most recent news. It just keeps on getting better. I had a big smile on my face all day last Sunday, and the good news keeps coming in. I had to resist gloating to some of my socialist friends at the office "Holiday" party Friday. Now a public apology from AP, Reuters, BBC, and the New York Times, and I will be set for the New Year.

Posted by: James at December 21, 2003 at 04:51 PM