Too Much Testosterone on the Campaign Trail

One of the things sorely missing in the 2012 election is the presence of a female candidate in the presidential race. While impressive numbers of women have been vying for congressional office, the lack of a female contender for even VP makes the campaign trail at times feels like a lockeroom. 

Not that 2008 was perfect. The Hilary Clinton-Barack Obama drama almost divided and derailed the Democrats. And Sarah Palin's presence was as distracting as it was amusing. But there was a civility and a sensitivity to the conversation (or at least an after the fact gut check about civility and sensitivity) that is really missing this time around. 

Most of the current coverage is peppered with fight club type language. The candidates did not debate this week, they "sparred" according to the New York Times. Romney went "on the attack" and the "candidates exchanged blows," to hear the Washington Examiner tell it. And the NY Daily News says the candidates are "duking it out" in competing TV spots. Even before this latest dancing around the ring, we heard all about Paul Ryan's ability to kick ass, his ripped abs, his percentage of bodyfat, devotion to the hardcore P90X exercise program, and actual, I mean false, marathon-running time. There was even a Ryan versus Biden fitness poll, though that was at least on point, since it talked about fitness to govern. 

The candidates are trying to strut their stuff, to look and talk tough. But they should remain focused on politics, not pugilism. And we should be asking no different of them. The language the media and casual observers are using to capture both sides suggests that Romney and Obama are brawlers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though their respective camps may try to portray them differently, both Romney and Obama are educated, sensitive, soft-spoken, intellectuals who are wearing tailored suits, not sweats. This week's debate was statistics-laden, data-driven discourse, not a steel cage match or a smackdown.

And that's fine. There is no reason to equate one's ability to pummel an opponent with the ability to govern. Sure an effective president needs to be authoritative and decisive, but they also need to be diplomatic. They need to be a strong leader, but they also need to be a good listener. In the brawn versus brains battle, we will be all better off if brains wins.

One thing that does give me hope is the large role that analysts say women voters will play in deciding the outcome. We may yet have a chance to keep the overflowing testosterone in check.