Picking a mate is like picking a president

Why shouldn’t we expect a president to be as strong, supportive and team-oriented as a loving partner?

Quynh Nguyen

In Hollywood, the most successful actors have been the ones that the public would love to get in bed with. Brad Pitt isn’t just sexy; he’s suave, entertaining and very compelling as an actor. Hence, he is one of the top actors in Hollywood.

The Hollywood rubric tends to emphasize physical appeal too much and seems to do a decent job turning over shallow actors and raising crops of fairly decent ones. Imagine using the Hollywood rubric to decide on next year’s presidential candidate. My favorite actor plays roles that are intelligent, credible, charismatic and honest. Any president I vote for has to, at least, have those qualities.

My most hated actor is vapid, shallow and egotistical, and should be doing something else other than wasting airtime (I’m looking at you, Simon Cowell). Would it surprise you that the worst president in American history shares similar characteristics?

It does seem like an insult to democracy to judge politicians by the Hollywood rubric. For some of us, it’s the best we can do. Most of us try but fail to weigh candidates by their voting history, partisanship or incumbency. Most of us who failed to vote did so because we couldn’t reach a decision based on those qualities. Politicians are deft at maintaining an ambiguity that makes it difficult to rule them out as a candidate. It is so much easier to judge candidates with a rubric we’re more practiced with.

Campaign masters are strongly aware of this, thus the Hollywoodification of politics. Presidential candidates don airbrushed, age-defying makeup, power suits, practiced lines and pricey hairstyles to maximize their success. Then, once we’ve voted for them, a bait-and-switch happens, where the pretty shiny president we just voted for has turned into a beast.

What is a confused electorate to do? Perhaps we should up our standards from the Hollywood rubric to the relationship rubric – “If X candidate were my significant other, how well would that work out?”

For a presidential candidate to be an ideal partner, he or she would have to be a good listener, be intelligent and be able to resolve conflicts successfully. My ideal presidential candidate is thoughtful, honest, open-minded and engaging.

Why shouldn’t we expect a president to be as strong, supportive and team oriented as a loving partner? If we respect ourselves as tax-paying citizens, we can respect ourselves enough to expect the very best from what we pay for.

All the successful presidents of the past fit the criteria of a loving partner – they have been supportive in tough times, amicable in the face of conflict, sensitive to the needs of the people, able to admit their mistakes and have made changes to improve the relationship.

To judge these qualities in a presidential candidate, we simply need to observe their ideology and how they treat people they disagree with. Argument style trumps background or common ideology in the success of any relationship. Most conflicts, problems or pet peeves can be smoothed over when discussed in a respectful manner. When one partner or the other is selfish and unyielding, it makes the relationship increasingly painful. When the partner is respectful and equally giving, regardless of stance, it makes resolving conflicts much easier and more satisfying.

To look for a perfect match for ourselves in a presidential candidate is an unrealistic expectation. To find someone similar to ourselves who argues respectfully and constructively is not only realistic, it’s possibly the healthiest decision we can make as lovers or constituents.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at [email protected]