A couple of weeks ago -- it may have been during one of the myriad GOP debates -- I tweeted the following:
"Primary season is a lot like dating: Available candidates all seem fatally flawed, and those who seem just right aren't available." http://twitter.com/#!/SmoosieQ/status/129013079085285376
I wasn't totally surprised by the number of retweets with which the observation met. Every once in awhile, I do manage to touch a Twitter nerve. Ideally, in a good way. Or, at least an arguably humorous way.
And it did get me to thinking about the similarities between the two processes. But then, as thinking of dating often does, it made me somewhat cranky. So, I left it alone. Still, the notion kept tugging at me, hinting that it might want to be the blog entry to resuscitate my mostly dead political blog. Thus, at the risk of revisiting the cranky, I've resolved to examine the parallels a bit more closely...
Let's start with the obvious -- both essentially are a selection process. One reviews potential candidates and hopes, ultimately, to settle on the "right" one. (Note: I do realize that some people date "just to date". Clearly, I'm excluding those masochists from this discussion.) Of course, unless one is appearing on The Bachelor/Bachelorette, rarely are multiple potential candidates presented all at once. Although, come to think of it, I suppose dating web-sites like e-Harmony or Match.com do offer that scenario, as well.
The trick, then, is to determine which candidate is the best fit. And it is, indeed, a trick -- finding someone whose values are, at minimum, complementary to one's own, and who possesses sufficient intelligence, strength and character to warrant one's respect and trust. My Twitter timeline is replete with comments bemoaning the fact that each of the candidates has fallen short on at least one of these key requirements. Perry has "stepped in it" on the intelligence front. Gingrich has baggage. Romney's changed his tune too much to be trusted.
And then there's that whole intangible thing -- the chemistry, the spark. Oh, go ahead and pooh-pooh it. We all know it's true. If there isn't at least some measure of it present, a candidate's not likely to hold your interest for long. He needs to engender enough excitement that you want to see more of him, get to know him better. In Primary Land, this is often euphemized as "fire in the belly" -- the perceived lack thereof can be deadly. Case in point -- Tim Pawlenty, a guy likable enough, but seemingly suffering from terminal blandness. A couple of times, there were flickers -- a hint that maybe he could get fired up, and the base along with him. His tweet to Obama, "sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl, but what was your Medicare plan?" comes to mind. Unfortunately, the flickers were too few and far between. Or else complete misfires, such as his slap fight with Bachmann.
The flip side of that is too much fire in the belly -- or fire of the wrong sort. Just like the would-be suitor who's a bit too eager, a candidate with too much intensity can put off potential supporters. We may like a guy who speaks with passion and sincerity, but once he starts foaming at the mouth or going off on wild tangents, our ardor cools substantially.
And then there's the looks thing. No one wants to be superficial, but there is a certain look we seek -- and wiggly, untamed eyebrows or wild-eyed stares generally don't fit the mold. How often have we heard it said that Romney, for instance, "looks presidential"? What does that really mean? I think, truth be told, it means a candidate looks like he could be the guy who'd play the President in a movie based on a Tom Clancy novel. Not that looks are the be-all-end-all. Many of us were giddy at the notion of a Fred Thompson presidency four years ago. Then again, Thompson's got the Hollywood chops. And an enchanting drawl and dry wit that rather make up for the hang dog looks.
The bottom line is that, just as in our personal lives, when it comes to the primaries, we're looking for someone to love. Someone we can be proud to claim as ours -- on our lawn, our Facebook page, maybe even our gas-guzzling SUV. The problem with this, of course, is that it's actually quite rare to find a candidate who meets all of our prerequisites. And, as often happens in the dating realm, even when we do, over time, we sadly discover that our dream guy isn't quite so dreamy after all. Maybe he has a well-hidden temper, or a penchant for skirt chasing. Maybe he wasn't totally forthcoming about his past. Or maybe, despite our interest, he just isn't that into us.
The difference is, when it comes to dating, one can opt out and still lead a pretty fulfilling, if sometimes lonely, life. But when it comes to selecting our nation's leader, we do so at our own peril.