What Are We Thinking?

by Randy Stebbins | 10/10/00 5:00am

Recent polls, as reported in the New York Times, show George W. Bush leading Al Gore among voting age men. In California, this question was asked: If Bush and Gore were cars, what kind of cars would they be? Before I consider the inane responses to this query, let's examine the inane question itself. The car substitution poll, even if conducted in California, is dumb. The representation of the presidential candidates as a particular make of automobile says more about the person being polled than it could possibly say about the candidates.

One of the reasons certain types of cars are purchased by the American male is that he wants to make a statement about himself when he drives down the street. Who really wants to drive a Ford Escort? Okay, so I had one for a year. It's gone now. I came to my senses. Great gas mileage doesn't have the appeal it once held for me. At any rate, most men, consciously or not, buy cars for what they think the autos say about them as red-blooded carriers of the XY chromosome set. Asking someone to identify a Presidential candidate as an automobile simply begs that person to respond with the kind of car he thinks actually represents his true self, or, in a contrived bit of prevarication, the car he would never consider having in his driveway.

Some of the people polled in California compared Bush to a "Maserati or a Mustang convertible." A Maserati? A MASERATI? Italian sports cars may never recover from such an unfair comparison. Dubya appears to be at best a Yugo, a Trabant or some other under-powered, poorly-made imitation automobile. A Mustang convertible? That can't possibly be an honest answer. Only the fantasies of the men being polled shows through in this kind of questioning.

The Californians also said that Gore reminded them of a "Taurus or a Volvo, safe and boxy." Probably none of those being polled admitted to driving one of those cars, they just thought that Gore, if he was a car, would be one of them. Again, these patently transparent answers to a silly question speak to the dull, conformist souls of those being questioned. But this time, the sun-addled denizens of the Golden State turned the inquiry around and gave an answer meant to declare that they, really, weren't that boring, but Gore sure was.

Perhaps the pollsters should ask what kind of vegetable the candidates could be, or, maybe what type of beef, or personal hygiene product? Perhaps then we would get a true representation of their status in the eyes of men. Gore could certainly be some sort of thick-skinned, winter squash. A Hubbard perhaps? His worthy opponent could then be a turnip, or another equally bland, but somehow offensive, root vegetable. As beef, Gore is definitely flank steak, hard to swallow and practically indigestible, while Bush falls somewhere in the murky area of hamburger; you don't know what is in there, but you don't really want to find out. As for the personal hygiene product comparison, I'll leave that to your imagination.

It seems that pollsters are running out of questions to ask the ordinary Americans out there in everyday America. And they are not doing the kind of thinking that results in questions that actually mean something to the voters deciding the election. What we need to see are answers to some serious questions raised by the campaign rhetoric of both candidates.

For those Bush/Maserati fanciers out there, "What effect would the withdrawal of a trillion dollars from Social Security by young adults have on the solvency of that program?" For the Gore/Ford folks, "Who are, exactly, those 1 percent of Americans getting this huge tax cut from Bush?"

When these questions are asked and the answers tabulated, crunched, spread and reported, then we may get an accurate picture of how America feels about the men in dark blue suits and red ties that vie for the job of President. We need some sincere answers to realistic questions asked of thinking people who take the time to consider what they are being asked. Until then we'll have to be content with finding out what sort of tree, or fish or car some pothead in Cali thinks Mr. Stump and the Yale frat boy cum Texas oilman would be, if they were a tree, a fish or a car.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!