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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

October 21st, 2012 3:14 PM

Dead Woman Working: Who is the Best Looking Candidate?

Several years ago, it made me angry when I heard a family member remark that she was voting for the candidate who she felt was the best looking.  How superficial, I thought. Certainly, we ought to be voting more for a person's policies and leadership qualities rather than having a beauty contest. Then in 2008, I heard a similar comment from a male relative who felt that Gov. Sarah Palin was a "fine looking woman” who had earned his vote for that reason alone.

How many voters, I worried, were making critical voting decisions based on the candidates’ physical appearance? Then it struck me that I also make critical decisions based on how candidates look to me. But it isn't perfectly coiffed hair, high cheek bones, blue eyes, or the finest clothing that attracts my attention as a voter. The looks that attract me and I suspect a large number of people in an unconscious way are those facial expressions and body language signals that tell me as much or more about a candidate's character than words could ever say.

For example, in this presidential election cycle, I have often looked at Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife and known by the looks on their faces that they would have a very difficult time associating with me and my husband. It isn't just that they are among the ultra- rich in this country. That fact alone would make it hard for them to ever be in the same social circles or neighborhood as we are. The same could be said of Pres. Barack Obama and the First Lady. The wealth accumulated may be much greater in the Romney household, but both families have a great deal more personal wealth than most other American families. Money is not the only driving factor in separating people like me from people like them.

I respect people who have worked hard and created success in their own lives. What I do not respect is people who look down on those who have not been so lucky no matter how hard they have worked. You can tell what most people really think about working class Americans like me and my husband by how they look. You can catch the sense of disdain and sometimes outright disgust that cannot be disguised on the faces of the wealthy or sometimes on the faces of those who have power of a different kind over the lives of those less powerful were those less wealthy. When I pay attention how a candidate looks, I am looking for those milliseconds when they cannot hide what they really feel.

During the last presidential debate, I think both President Obama and Mitt Romney showed moments of anger and frustration. But the look I caught on Romney's face more than once was that look I've seen on the faces of bosses and those in power around me over the years when they don't want to suffer one more minute listening to an underling or someone like me for whom they feel so much contempt. In general, I haven't liked the lack of respect shown during the debates for debate rules or timekeeping agreements made in advance by all involved. That bully behavior of ignoring the rules simply because you think your point matters more than the other person’s or that the rules do not apply to you is distasteful on many levels. I didn't think that President Obama so much lost the first debate as Romney bullied himself through it. Commentators can call it what they will, but I felt like I was listening to a power monger drunk on his own Kool-Aid. I think it would have been a better lesson for our children if microphones had been turned off once time limits were reached and the rules had been followed. Electing someone who doesn't think rules apply to them isn't necessarily electing someone powerful.

But talking about the debates is really an aside. What I'm getting at is that feeling that every working class person has had when someone in a position of power over us looks at us and looks down on us like we are someone filthy or that we’re someone too stupid with whom to bother. The person's wealth often has nothing to do with that. I've seen people who didn't have much more money than I do look at me with that look of disgust. I never trust people who look at others that way. Looks betray what people feel deep inside about those around them.

The reality is that I haven't really decided what to do on all of my voting during this election cycle. But one thing I won't do is vote for someone who thinks I'm disgusting. For most of my adult life I've had to do what most working class Americans do every day of our lives. I've had to put up with being humiliated, condemned, overworked, disrespected, laughed at, and lied to just to make enough money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, and the lights turned on. When bosses wanted to make my life miserable, they were able to do so simply because they signed my paycheck. But when I'm in the voting booth, no one can tell me what to do.

And one of the things I will certainly take into account when I vote is how a candidate looks at me when he or she thinks no one is watching. Because if that candidate really thinks so little of me that it disgusts them in their unconscious minds and sweeps across their faces as a physical impulse, I can rest assured that person will not give one moment's thought to making conditions better for me or better for others in the working class. Few candidates would have the gumption to say that or to express their disgust outright, but their faces giveaway the reality in tiny doses.

Looks matter. So while some Americans may cast their votes based on which candidates in their opinion are the best looking, I'll probably adjust many of my votes based on which candidates look at others with respect and decency and humanity.

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