Presidential Unhopeful: Ice Cream, Hair Cuts, and Why I’d Never Survive the Campaign Trail
As I sit here watching presidential candidates answer questions during a CNN town hall, a thought popped in my head:
Man, it must be hard to be on your game all of the time.
As a presidential candidate everything you do is examined with a magnifying glass, if a magnifying glass could also instantly relay your every move to hundreds of millions of people on the internet. Of course anything you utter in public, or sometimes even private, will become fodder for media, blogs, and comments threads across social media. But nothing seems to be off limits — from what you wear, to how you style your hair (as John Edwards learned during the $1000 haircut debacle) or your food selection on the campaign trail. If you show signs of being human, perhaps you cough or lose your patience for a moment, expect it to appear on Twitter in minutes.
This alone would disqualify me from being president. You would think my lack of requisite experience would preclude me from the highest office in the land, yet we have set the bar pretty low recently. Trump after all believes you can just print more money in response to the national debt (did no one teach him about inflation at Wharton?) and has a hard time using the English language. I can confidently say that I have a better grasp on basic economics and certainly words than our sitting president. Also, on reality — but that’s a topic for another day.
Looking the part.
I have less of a grasp on keeping myself composed 24/7. Once as I walked into work I noticed a soft lump by my shin, only to discover a dirty sock from last time I had worn the pants — and clearly not washed them. Fortunately, no one was there to witness as I pulled the sock out and shoved it in my purse. But on a recent trip through security at the Denver Airport, a TSA agent was kind enough to inform me that my sweater was on inside out.
Given my record, I can only surmise that it would be impossible for me to survive a day of handshakes and rallies with an unwrinkled pantsuit. I rarely manage to allot myself more than fifteen minutes to get ready for the day in the first place. Sure, I have plenty of ambitious morning plans to look like a respectable human, but staying snuggled in a warm bed until the absolute last minute beats leisurely picking out my outfit for the day or ironing a shirt, always. While I am sure having a glam squad would be handy, I don’t believe the finest makeup artist or stylists could save me from myself. I still haven’t yet figured out how to get through a long day (or let’s face it more than a couple hours) without most of my makeup wiping itself off of my face and my clothing bunching up around me.
Chocolate, mint, or fudge swirl?
Eating properly in public is a whole different ball game. As my boyfriend would attest, it is fairly uncommon that I eat food and do not get it on my clothing or some unlikely part of my face. But it’s not just your ability to consume food like a civilized human that the cameras will pick up, but what your choice of food says about you as a candidate. In the second episode of Veep, the Vice President’s staff spends the day debating which flavor of frozen yogurt she should eat to convey the right message to the public. Jonah Ryan advocates for mint since it “implies freshness, trust, traditional values,” or swirl for it’s suggestion of “racial harmony.”
While Veep is political satire, it’s not so far off the mark. According to Jennifer Gerson of Mic, candidates on the campaign trail cannot get away without taking “at least one bite” of the local specialty food. As she goes on to explain, ice cream has long been a symbol of American culture and values. Politicians from JFK to Biden have been photographed enjoying a cone.
However, the wrong choice of food might have people — with too much time on their hands — claiming you are elitist and un-American. Obama’s patriotism was called into question when he had the audacity to put Dijon on a burger instead of yellow mustard. What would my death by chocolate ice cream, covered in Oreos, sprinkles, inordinate amounts of hot fudge, and whipped cream say about me as a candidate? I’m not sure but I can guarantee I’d walk away with some on my wrinkled trousers — and my face.
“You can’t go nutso, you can’t be all like blah during the day.”
While food or fashion faux pas might derail a campaign, running for presidency also requires more decorum than I can muster. Even with Trump spouting nonsense, insults, and creepily towering over her at the debates, HIllary had no choice but to remain calm and composed. Female candidates in particular are required to do the impossible, not display too much emotion while not appearing robotic. Although I consider myself to be even-tempered, I have very real and human reactions that include crying occasionally when it’s far from warranted and an inability to keep snide comments to myself.
As Lilly in the classic Princess Diaries so eloquently puts it, “You can’t go nutso, you can’t be all like blah during the day.” And while she’s referring to being a princess, of course, the same holds true for politicians as they set out on the rigorous campaign trail for up to two years. Just ask Howard Dean, who infamously got a little riled up during a publicly aired speech to campaign staffers and still hasn’t lived it down. While he had little chance of winning anyways, this has become his unfortunate legacy.
Not accidentally swearing in the earshot of the wrong person, especially during the Trump occupancy, presents another challenge to my electability. Representative Rashida Tlaib experienced a phony sense of outrage from many when she called Trump a “motherfucker.” I started to count the number of times I’ve used Trump and fuck in the same sentence, and very quickly lost track.
Swearing aside, I imagine I’d have a difficult time not saying something that comes across entirely stupid at some point. Not for lack of intelligence, but because we have all had that moment where a perfectly formed idea in our head comes across as word salad instead. Mitt Romney once used the the phrase “binders full of women” in a debate, which was not necessarily intended to sound as creepy as it came across. But it took no time for memes, blogs, and parody Twitter accounts to pop up dedicated to said binder.
And somehow Trump broke the rules.
Apparently none of this matter anyways given the aberration in the White House. Trump ticked off all the boxes that would spell disaster for any normal candidate. Perhaps we should have all recognized the red flags when it was revealed during the campaign that Trump prefers his steak well-done with ketchup.
In all seriousness, I do hold prospective presidents to higher standards when it comes to things that matter: intelligence, temperament, policy knowledge, history of public service, being able to form a coherent sentence (cough cough). But whether or not a candidate chooses the wrong condiment should not make headline news. As we brace for the 2020 elections let us remember to give the candidates a break for occasionally revealing their humanity.
PS. I will not be announcing my candidacy for president any time soon — or ever.