Friday, October 24, 2008

Female Politicians and Electoral Crisis

In my previous post Playboy Models and Economic Crisis, I criticized research that purported to show men preferring taller, older women during an economic downturn, studies which were based on the rather unconvincing evidence of a few Playboy centrefolds.

In Something about Sarah, Kathleen Parker accuses Senator McCain of having allowed sexual attraction to influence his selection of running mate. Parker cites a Canadian study published in 2003, which indicated that men made hasty decisions for short-term reward when confronted with attractive women.

Obviously McCain's selection of Governor Palin is based on extremely short-term thinking - she is chosen to help him win the election and certainly not to be an effective Vice-President (let alone, God forbid, President). And according to Robert Draper in The Making and Remaking of McCain, McCain struts like a younger man when he has Palin at his side. So it apparently benefits his campaign for him to appear more vigorous and virile, despite what I said in my post on Political Double Acts.

The key question is whether McCain was himself befuddled by Palin's womanly charms, or whether he was calculating on this effect befuddling the American voter. There is also a question whether this befuddling effect is amplified by the current economic crisis, which evidently causes great anxiety for the American electorate (and therefore for McCain himself), thus providing a further reason for discounting the future. Parker ends her piece thus:
"If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature's power to befuddle."

Margo Wilson and Martin Daly, Do pretty women inspire men to discount the future? Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (Suppl.) 271, S177–S179 (2004)

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