We pundits can get so wrapped up chatting about insider-y things like the candidates’ policies and records that we forget about what matters to average Americans. For the average Joes and Janes who don’t have time for complicated topics as “water purity” or “Middle East,” the one and only factor that will decide their vote in November is which candidate they would most want to have a beer with.
When many folks look up from their TV trays and bar stools to see the candidates preening at debates, they’re just trying to figure out who would be the most pleasant to take along for a night out at the pub. This “Beer Factor” has been decisive in the past several Presidential elections, from down-to-earth George W. Bush’s victories over famously stiff Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry to cool Barack Obama’s wins over a colicky John McCain and a teetotaling Mitt Romney.
As this year’s Presidential primaries near a close, it’s worth taking a look at the remaining candidates to figure out what they would be like to have a beer with:
Voters can tell from his rambling speeches that Trump is the kind of guy who won’t let you get a word in edgewise. You’ll sit there sipping your beer while he goes on and on bragging about his business deals or raving about this and that ethnic minority he has a “solution” for. Don’t try glancing over at the ballgame either — the Donald is the kind of guy who demands your attention at all times. Worst of all, as a billionaire, Trump probably drinks some strange aristocratic liquor brewed from goat’s blood and melted swords. And when the check comes, he’s liable to “forget” his wallet and leave you on the hook for the bill, like so many of these irresponsible and entitled young ladies you meet on Plenty of Fish these days. VERDICT: WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
If you thought Trump was a loudmouth, this guy’s even worse. A beer with Bernie would consist of him droning on and on about “the crooked bankuhs” and spilling his drink with his out-of-control hand waving. Bernie would also irritate you and the staff by demanding to know which beers were union-made and if the bartenders would like to go on strike (as if getting a whole dollar just for pouring a pitcher were an unfair wage!) And forget about chatting up the pair of ladies giving you the eye across the bar, thanks to Bernie’s toxic masculinity and compulsive need to shout down women. VERDICT: WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
There are many things that would be fun to do with John Kasich. Stealing copper wiring is one. Drinking Dayquil is another. Having a beer in a normal bar that expects payment is not one of these activities. Sure, conversing with Kasich is fun for an experienced journalist who’s used to listening. But for most Americans whose brains and attention spans have been rotted by smartphones and viral failvids, Kasich’s rambling yarns about amoral milkmen and dead horses from his childhood will prove trying. Second, there’s the issue of payment. Governor Kasich is famously destitute, and even when he does have money, he’s always concocting a scheme to get out of payment. Your average NatSec Mom or Fantasy Football Dad who uses the Beer Metric will not go along with one of Cuyahoga Johnny’s harebrained schemes where he tells the bartenders to accept stamps or vouchers as legal tender. VERDICT: WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
Voters can easily picture having a drink with Hillary, since she has so many of them. There was the time she put John McCain under the table in a drinking contest and the time she downed cervezas and rum shooters campaigning in Puerto Rico:
She must win the beer primary, right? Wrong. As much as some bovine deadenders of Middle America love getting wasted to make them forget about their lives, they absolutely hate going out with a hot mess. Your night with Clinton may start off upbeat and fun when she wants to skip dinner and instead go straight to Jello shots and vodka tonics. A couple dozen drinks later, you’re sitting there bored while she’s talking at a hyper pace with the random two white guys with dreadlocks she met while having a smoke then invited over to your table because they know so much about art. VERDICT: WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
When you drink a beer you want to keep it down. Staring at Cruz’s nauseating uncanny valley face won’t help on that front. But good luck even getting that beer in the first place. Cruz is liable to harass the bartender in his smarmy, adenoidal voice, using logic to explain why ladies’ nights are sexist against men, so he should get a discount. And after winning his argument, Cruz will probably just order a Diet Coke while lecturing you about how it’s imbecilic to “go out” and pay good money for overpriced beverages that dull your reflexes just so you can high-five other beer-likers about how “wasted” you got. A cheaper and more mentally engaging pastime, Cruz will argue, is editing the “List of Logical Fallacies” Wikipedia page or exploring the expansive world of train simulation video games. Then he’ll pour your drink into the drip tray to prove his point. VERDICT: WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
Sen. Jim Webb
You walk in the bar, your coat slung over your shoulder. You’re nervous, looking around. Maybe you stare at your phone to project a nonchalant attitude, but you’re second guessing every fidget, footstep, and glance you take.
“Carl!” You hear a masculine voice call out. “Take a seat you ol’ son of a bitch.”
His voice is like a shot of liquid Ativan. That quick reassurance darts into your mainline vein and soon registers what isn’t a feeling of calm–no, that would be too simple–it’s a feeling that everything will be OK.
Senator Jim Webb already has a beer that he’s half done with, but he slides one over your way.
“Hope you like Michelob,” he says with that trademark nearly flat smile.
You start out trying to impress him, timing each sip, laughing at the right time, but about a quarter of the way through your second brew, he touches your forearm.
“We’re just guys tonight. We’re not Polk Award-nominated veteran reporter and war hero Senator. We’re not even two mavericks. We’re just a couple of dudes having a good time.”
He regales you with stories of his time in Vietnam, of the men he felled both on the battlefield and in the Senate. You’re entranced. You’re both angry as you tell each other your worst horror stories of family court. Jim Webb has been wounded on the battlefield of divorce just like you have.
His anger becomes yours. Your laughter becomes his. In this magical corner at the end of the bar, the alcohol and chemistry swirls to create a space in your heads where time doesn’t exist anymore.
You finally feel what it is to belong.
But time is real. Whether we want to acknowledge that we are simply servants to the passing of the hours and days or not, it will find a way to command us. We all have sons we must go to court for. We all have jobs that pay our rent. Everything that exists outside of this bar, it necessitates this beautiful oasis in the drudgery of life. But it must be obeyed.
Time commands that the bar is closing up. You’re resigned like Jim himself was before he was sent out on deployment. Except he welcomed the danger when time came for him. All the shrapnel, bullets, and venereal diseases were exciting. What you face is the terror of obligation.
“Hey, c’mere sport. You’re not too big of a man to hug your buddy before we go on our ways,” he says.
For a man of average size, his whole being envelops yours. His back is hard like a rock, but reassuringly radiating with heat. Maybe it’s the Michelob and Wild Turkey shots, but Jim Webb is warm.
He’s saluted you to face the battle of your life. You’re reaffirmed to the battle of existence, even if it only lasts till the next time you meet. VERDICT: DEFINITELY WANT TO HAVE A BEER WITH
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.
To try CAFE’s Morning Shot email, sign up here.