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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Edwin Drood's Column > October 2012
back Edwin Drood's Column
30 October 2012
Reset the Enthusiometer, Kevin at the Mysterious Edwin Drood's Column
Reset the Enthusiometer, Kevin
In which Edwin watches what goes on at the bottom of the screen, down among the irritating bits
of breaking news, instead of paying attention to the main dish. This turns out to be a crash course
in politics as a clash of personalities.

The immediacy of it was scary, yet rich in valuable, political lessons. What am I talking about?  I’m referring to the little, gender-sensitive “enthusiometer” that ran as a pair of coloured waves along a base chart under the smiling contestants of the third candidates’ debate between President Obama and Governor Romney at Lynn University, Boca Raton in Florida, as broadcast live by CNN, indicating in real-time the level of enthusiasm or engagement of a panel of nominally “undecided”, swing-state voters of both sexes.

Picture them if you will, chewing on their favourite gum, sipping their brew of preference or snacking on Cheerios or Nacho chips, while a series of wires taped to their thumbs, glued to their chests with silicone cardiac connectors or Blu-Tacked to their sculls records the degree to which the candidate currently speaking has succeeded in stimulating their little happiness buds. The enthusiometer does not lie. It is not impressed by a person’s loyalties. It records real feelings. While the test person wallows slack-jawed in an orange leather recliner or slouches on a bean-bag in front of the TV, his or her cerebral cortex is working overtime analysing every subtle nuance in the candidate’s ... well, what exactly: arguments, rhetorical superiority, body language, vocal tone, shirt, tie or hair gel?

While most of you who watched the debate were probably looking mostly at the candidates themselves, as you quite rightly and politely should, the Drood was busy learning what he could from those wavy lines under the screen. And what exactly did I learn from the spidery trace of the enthusiometer? Well, for one thing, women are going to like Obama even if he reads them the Boca Raton phone-book.

The yellow line (the men’s line was green) began to rise the moment the President opened his mouth and fell significantly the moment the governor opened his! It’s worth asking why, even if the answer – sex appeal – is perhaps difficult to quantify. After all, Serge Gainsbourg, another man with big ears, and ugly to boot, had it too in spades and any non-French male finds that hard to get their head around. OK, the President has a nice smile. He has a warm and relaxed demeanour, a touch of easy-going Cary Grant mixed with Dirk Bogarde melancholy (before either man was pushed out of the closet). He is also that special being for whom white, American women immediately fly all their flags: the safe black man. He’s just African-American enough to be exotic and just “ivy-league lawyer” enough to have class. Because Obama is definitely top deck: he has the gravitas of Morgan Freeman, coupled with the statesmanship of Mandela and the impish, under-your-radar savvy of Will Smith. It’s a heady combination for anyone. But throw in his equally smart wife and their combined academic track record in and you’ve got Sidney Poitier with a gene pool any woman might want to go swimming in. So, the babes get him, and they’re going to click to him no matter what he says or what policies he espouses. However, the moment he even mentioned the words women, or education or families or children, the yellow line went skywards.

Governor Romney is lucky he’s a good Mormon and thus above such base questions as to whether someone truly hath the Mojo, because he surely hath it not! There’s something about the oily sincerity of his smile and the greasy stuff he puts in his hair that might have given him a certain roustabout charm if he were still twenty-seven, deeply tanned, wore jeans with a plaid shirt and sported a gold earring. In other words, if he were the Utah Elvis he might just be in with a chance as the kind of snake-oil salesmen mothers warn their daughters against. However, his presumed mantel of rectitude and his holier-than-thou air of entitlement undermine this image entirely and thus deprive him even of the slight residue of 50’s country-boy, rockabilly sexiness he might otherwise have used to his advantage ... if selling cars were his field, but maybe not if running for president. The man is Barry Goldwater without the fighting skills or the charisma, Nixon with a better tailor, Reagan without the hokey-folksy charm. The babes don’t get him. They think he’s a suit and they’re dead right. They’d still tune out even if he recited the Karma Sutra.

Speaking of Goldwater makes me realize how lost the American Right has become in the morass of so-called values-based activism they have worked their way into. Goldwater was a true conservative of the free-trade, hands-off, libertarian variety. He would definitely not want to legislate your body or your bedroom, your sexual proclivities or the place of God in the constitution. These were not issues suited to the political domain for Goldwater’s kind of Republicanism, and since he lost that particular war, the party has been the less for it.

Romney’s new line, now that he has the nomination and no longer has to appeal to the Tea Party, has moved a lot closer to Goldwater than anyone has dared to be since the young, pre-Thatcherism days of Ronald Reagan. However, it smacks of insincerity coming from “the Mitt”, since he has not only changed horses so many times of late, but is simultaneously and overtly courting the undecided centrists of Ohio, Indiana and Florida. So, how did he make out with the fellahs on the enthusiometer?

Whenever the Governor talked about “making” America strong (Obama prefers to “keep” America strong) his green support line swung upwards. Whenever he talked about social questions or inequality issues it sunk back down a tad. This is either because he had lost his male audience (lack of attention, lack of interest) or because he seemed less convincing when holding out olive branches to the working stiff. I tend more to take the second stance.

It’s worth mentioning that either candidate could raise a slight erection from their male audience just by waving the flag a bit, but only Obama could harden nipples as well. Yet, despite the apparent success of patriotic rhetoric, talk of troop numbers and submarines, neither man could raise any enthusiasm by being belligerent with regard to foreign policy: tough, yes, aggressive, no.

And this measurable lack of enthusiasm for aggression, even to the point of antipathy was true whenever either one of the candidates attacked or so much as politely criticized their opponents position, voting record, policies, past statements or campaign tactics. The only such attacks that gained any support at all from the wavering lines below, were those that were made with joshing good humour or wit. Meanwhile, the statements that caused both lines to climb, regardless of which candidate made them, were those which referred to a spirit of bipartisan cooperation or consensus.

Of course, we should not attach too much importance to the reactions of this particular set of people. It’s not for nothing that they are “undecided” only two weeks ahead of the election! Both candidates might well be asking themselves; are these people whose votes I want? Are these the votes that will make a difference? Because the CNN panel, by the very nature of its defining parameters, consisted of either conciliatory characters anyhow, or those who are somewhat lacking in backbone and/or political culture. How else could they fail to have yet been touched by the polarising effect this campaign in particular and the entire Obama presidency in general has already had on the nation?

So, what would be the Drood’s advice to the two candidates at this critical juncture? Well, for starters, Mr Romney should stop trying to woo the women. There’s no point. He’s already lost them. Even if he promises to tie each and every one of them naked to the bedpost and spank them soundly if they vote him in, he still won’t get their support (and I only suggest this tactic because it seems to sell millions of books, so there must be something in it that women really want).

And Mr Obama doesn’t need to pay any more attention to female voters either. He could promise to come by each and every household and do the dishes for a week and still stay manly and popular. So, guys ... forget the “Swing States”, they’re passé and forget the female vote, it’s already cast. This election isn’t about the undecided anymore, it’s about gender and there’s only one gender still out on the field of play.

This means you can disregard education, welfare, child-care, abortion, the glass ceiling and all the female buzz-topics that have dominated so many past campaigns. Put away all the emotional stuff and go for the male voter where he is most sensitive: in his gut. This is now a “free beer” election on the Bavarian and Ghanaian model. Break out the brew.

So, go ahead, talk up the flag, but be sure to talk up the fuzzy good feelings of male bonding. This election is no longer about powder kegs but kegs of lager. By all means big-up Israel, by all means lecture the Arabs – why not if it gets someone’s attention? – but  then please go on to bring all the boys home as a way of ensuring that the military stays permanently up to strength. Yeah!

Oh, and as the “one more thing” that Apple forgot to mention, I suggest that each of you nominate the other as their last-minute-change vice-presidential candidate. That trick alone should clinch it one way or the other. Sorry Ryan, but you’re too smart for the average Joe. Sorry Joe, but you’re simply not average enough. You’re way too political and bitchy with it.

Now, let the binge begin and may the best buddy win! The enthusiometer has spoken. Om.

© Edwin Drood, October 2012
Edwin Drood's Column, the blog by The Mysterious Edwin Drood,

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