After you have finished checking the election tables to learn which of your candidates won and lost, you might be interested to know about a letter I've received from Louis B. Marshall of Bradbury Heights, Md.
Lou recalls an article that appeared on The Washington Post's op-ed page shortly after the election of 1976. "The author chided American voters for being political know-nothings who are likely to choose a candidate on the basis of such non-issues as personal appearance, good looks, or who has the most attractive family. This didn't bother me too much until Rep. Phil Crane threw his hat into the ring and at least three columnists, in evaluating his chances, referred to his good looks.
"The op-ed writer had criticized rank and file voters, some of whom are not too educated or sophisticated. But here we have three learned writers giving great weight to good looks and personal appearance. What do you think?"
I think it is foolish to judge a book by its cover. But people do, you know. Even educated and supposedly sophisticated people.
There is some merit to taking the candidate's wife and children into account. After all, there is something to be said for a man who has been wise enough to choose a woman of character, intelligence and dignity. And there is something to be said for a husband-and-wife team that produces bright and well-mannered children.
An attractive family is no substitute for sound programs and wise views, but it does tell us more about a candidate than the cleft in his chin might, or the tilt of his nose. Fortunately for the American people, they are not stupid enough to ignore issues completely, or to overlook the potential for great leadership that can occasionally be discerned in a physically unattractive candidate. John F. Kennedy's charm and good looks didn't hurt him a bit, but neither did Abraham Lincoln's homeliness.
If we were really as preoccupied with good looks as some people think, Honest Abe would have run second and Stephen A. Douglas would have had to cope with the crisis of 1861. And some of your candidates who won yesterday might have lost. I don't think we're quite as bad a collection of know-nothings as that op-ed writer said we were.