This week I was visiting a nursing home, (I belong to a small group that performs at Christmas for the homes in our area), and I came across a very proper and very old woman who was reading “The Politician” by Andrew Young.

Yes, this is the tell-all book by John Edward’s former aide. I asked her if it was any good and she said, “Oh yes, its very good. Do you know I made the mistake of voting for him once!” She was so horrified. (insert laughter here.) I said that “he had fooled a lot of people.” She gravely answered, “oh yes, he did” and shook her head as she said it, clearly upset. As I walked away I commented to my friend that I thought it was interesting how mature women often vote for the best looking candidate, rather than the best candidate. (Don’t shoot me for generalizing please.)

This exchange made me think, however, about the role of appearance in politics. The Democrats seem to like youthful, vibrant and fresh candidates. Republicans seem to want maturity, and grace in a statesman like manner, meaning a little gray at the temples never hurts. But both parties expect a “beautiful person.” The American public expects Presidents to be as smooth and tough and handsome as James Bond, with a little bit of Humphrey Bogart in carriage and the first Lady should exude Grace Kelly’s beauty and charm. It seems that actual ability often takes a backseat to perceived exterior competence, and the over 60 set of Southern women are not the only culprits. College kids don’t want the ‘old guys,’ men don’t like the ‘pretty boys’ and women sneer at female politicians that are ‘too pretty.’

I would say that the American public should learn to not judge a book by its cover- but that of course would mean opening a book, and too little of the population is willing to take the time.

Incidentally, here are some excerpts of Mr. Young’s book, if you should care to take a look.