Baldness and the Presidency
This week's Tote Board column
discusses briefly the fact that the two GOP front-runners this year are well-known for having used the patented "comb-over' earlier in their careers to hide their baldness.
There is, in fact, a semi-serious point here: Since the real dawn of the television age in the mid-60's, the voters have never opted for a bald president.
George McGovern was bald and carried one state in 1972.
Gerald Ford was bald and lost in 1976.
How many bald actors are there in the movies? How many bald anchormen have you seen? The truth is that in the television age, it's a distinct disadvantage for a man to be bald. This is not as shocking as it may seem. Each innovation in the media creates its own set of favored candidates. In the "radio age," a candidate with a high voice suddenly found himself with less of a constituency (just as some silent movie actors were never able to make the transition to talkies). In the age of film and photography, being phenomenally attractive or unattractive suddenly counted for more -- which is one reason why Abraham Lincoln, at the dawn of the age of photography, radically changed his appearance in 1861, growing the now-famous beard.
This isn't to say that McCain and Giuliani can't get elected -- though if McCain had a full head of hair, it's likely that the charges that he's too old and tired to be president would appear less frequently. But it is a factor -- which is why Joe Biden tried so hard to remedy his hairlessness and the comb-over lives on.