Today, David Broder takes to his pulpit to decry the nasty, personal turn taken in the New Jersey governor's race. Upset that the superfit Jon Corzine would stoop to mocking Republican challenger Chris Christie's obesity, Broder offers this lament:
If you believe, as I do, that the beautiful people already have enough of an advantage in this age of television politics and cable trivia, then the last thing we need is a wave of ads highlighting the fact that others are really ugly.
Ah, the beauty-is-only-skin-deep-don't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover argument. How high minded. Broder even goes so far as to wonder if the famously dog-faced Abraham Lincoln would have stood a chance against Stephen Douglas under New Jersey rules.
But Broder is missing a key distinction here: These days, fatness isn't merely an issue of aesthetics. It has been elevated to the status of full-blown public health crisis by legions of well-intentioned public health advocates and other members of the ever more aggressive fat police. This isn't just about fat being icky. It's about Americans being constantly warned that overweight people are ticking time bombs wired to explode at any moment with a host of chronic, expensive ailments that will bring down our entire health care system. As scores of news reports seek to remind us damn near daily: Fatness is no longer a personal choice or individual health problem; it is part of a national epidemic that threatens us all!
Broder can tut-tut about the shallowness of the American voter from now until election day, but none of us (especially in the media) should be surprised by what's going down in Jersey. You can't whip a physical characteristic into a major public health crisis without having it come back and bite a few folks on their fat asses.