Fat in Politics

huckabee.jpgFat is looking like a big issue in the upcoming presidential election. One of the candidates – Mike Huckabee – lost 100 lbs and is making the “war on obesity” a major part of his campaign. Al Gore’s weight is being viewed as barometer of both his electability and his desire to run. In a recent NPR interview, it was speculated that Bill Richardson is not being taken seriously as a candidate because of his weight. As a breath of fresh air,  last week Richard Cohen wrote an editorial in the Washington Post, Politics by the Pound, condemning weight as a measure of presidential ability, but acknowledging its importance in this election.

And just today, the current president announced his nominee for Surgeon General, declaring that his main focus will be “efforts on educating parents and children about childhood obesity.” And not to be outdone, Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger recently teamed up to “fight obesity. ”

Politicians are now seeing fat as an opportunity to advance their careers (or for others, as an insurmountable liability), and this is more than a little unsettling. As politician after politician sets their sights on this single nail, I worry they’ll start thinking everything looks like a hammer. After all, there’s only so many soda machines you can remove from the schools. There’s only so many speeches you can make warning about fat heralding the downfall of civilization. And nobody really knows what the cause of the “obesity epidemic” is, but there sure have been a lot of suggestions. And each of those proliferating hypothetical “causes” can lead to any number of half-baked political “solutions.”

Of most concern, I wonder at what point will political oneupmanship start tempting these politicians — now committed to “solving the crisis” — to turn towards the draconian policies we’ve recently seen advocated by our more zealous anti-obesity crusaders: the promotion of discrimination in the workplace; taxes and health insurance penalties for the fat; or classifying parents of fat children as “child abusers.”  

So what do you think – do you think that a fat candidate could be electable? Do you think politicians jumping on the obesity bandwagon is a real issue, or is it just so much political hot air?

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9 Responses to “Fat in Politics”

  1. spinsterwitch Says:

    Politicians jumping on the obesity bandwagon is definitely a real issue. For better or worse, these people are the ones who create policy and laws. There is a powerful and wealthy lobby who is invested in creating an environment that is conducive to their own agenda…and they will use their power and wealth to advocate for those politicians to do what they do.

  2. Meowzer Says:

    Yeah, I do think a fat candidate is electable. But Bill Richardson is someone relatively few Americans know. He doesn’t have the oratory ability of Barack Obama or the built-in fame of Hillary Clinton or the campaign exprience profile of John Edwards. That has a lot more to do with his low showing in the polls than his weight.

    I think Al Gore could be elected (again) in a heartbeat, no matter what he weighs. The man is comfortable with himself and secure in what he believes in a way he certainly was not when he ran 7 years ago, and he radiates statesmanship. Boy, could we use some of that.

  3. BStu Says:

    I don’t think Richardson’s problem at all is that he’s fat. Richardson is the classic example of a guy with an amazing resume who’s just not going to get elected for a variety of reasons. Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are all political celebrities for one reason or another. People just know them. Everyone else is just everyone else. While Richardson has credentials WAY beyond any of the “everyone else” candidates, he still has a huge gap in name recognition. People don’t know him, so they hardly know him enough to hate him for being fat. The perfect proof is Huckabee. He’s languishing in the third tier with a candidacy taken far less seriously than Richardson.

    The concern about “obesity” being on the political radar is a great one, though. Politicians can do an enormous amount of harm jockeying for position on fat baiting. I hope its all posturing and stays that way. Fat people have enough problems without legal hassles being added to the mix.

  4. celsou Says:

    I don’t understand why, in a country where a large part of the population is overweight, it is such a taboo to have a fat candidate. Wouldn’t they have more in common with voters than a thin candidate? I think that politics have become too much about image and PR. In the end it should be about policies and not who about who works out more.
    Laws and measures passed to stop the “obesity crisis” are definitely an easy way for politicians to look like they’re doing something useful without disturbing the consensus too much.

  5. fatfu Says:

    spinster – yeah and I wonder how much lobbyists even have to do anymore. I think they can just sit back and watch – once politians see the “war on obesity” as a safe way to get photo ops and press, they’re all over it anyway.

    meowzer – thinking of al gore makes me sniffly. He’s been my candidate since 1988 believe it or not.

    Bstu – fatbaiting. exactly the word. thanks.

    celsou – you’d have thunk it, but if being the majority was enough we’d have had a woman candidate long ago.

  6. PrettyWendyLady Says:

    Okay…Arkansas girl here…and I’m living with the effects of Huckabee’s fat rant. Just a little background info here, his ENTIRE immediate family is morbidly obese…well, a good 50% of them are. He had personal chefs, nutritionists, and trainers to help him….all paid for by tax payers money. He made childhood obesity such an issue here in Arkansas that it has made our kid’s lives miserable and my life, as a teacher, miserable. I can no longer give the kids candy as treats. Now, I didn’t gorge their pockets with them, but if they exhibited exceptionally good behavior, I would give them a jolly rancher here or there. DO YOU KNOW HOW EFFECTIVE THAT WAS!!!???? It wasn’t contributing to their obesity….it was contributing to my sanity!!!

    As for coke machines…we still have one for teacher’s use…but the kids still use it….It’s like prohibiting alcohol…they would never have thought twice about it, but since they can’t have it, now it’s freakin’ cool as heck to sneak one.

    If politicians seriously use “the obesity epidemic” as a political ploy for popularity, I’m afraid they might just get squashed…LOL…by those of us who think they are ridiculous. Now, if they make it something useful for the HEALTH of ALL AMERICANS–offering things like free gyms and nutritionists for everyone no matter their income–that I could support. But, it won’t happen…..it never does.

  7. GRUMPY OLD MAN Says:

    Of course they need a new crusade not that they have conured the evils of smoking. Didn’t conquer lung cancer but never mind. They managed to loose the little Hitler every one carries around in the bellies and this is what they were after. So now they can marginilize the fatties without a shred of tangible proof in the same way. Hell, you do it right and you can start wars all over the patch. In my humble opinion it would be quite a lot better to concentrate on the 35 million or so that don’t get ENOUGH TO EAT before worrying about the ones that get too much.

  8. GRUMPY OLD MAN Says:

    And I can’t spell for F*** this late at night. Sorry.

  9. Big Fat Carnival - Sixth Edition at Seeworthy.org Says:

    […] Fat in Politics at fat fu Politicians are now seeing fat as an opportunity to advance their careers (or for others, as an insurmountable liability), and this is more than a little unsettling. As politician after politician sets their sights on this single nail, I worry they’ll start thinking everything looks like a hammer. After all, there’s only so many soda machines you can remove from the schools. There’s only so many speeches you can make warning about fat heralding the downfall of civilization. […]


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