Running for elected office is often an exercise in self-humiliation. That's in part the nature of the thing; your literal goal is to put yourself in front of people and have them choose you or an opponent.

But it's also in part the nature of the modern campaign, which is a constant struggle between demonstrating how authentic and down-to-earth you are and presenting the most positive image possible at all times. Donald Trump leads the Republican field because his insistence on presenting himself as the greatest guy in the world is a completely authentic part of who he is. For other candidates, there is tension.

Which brings us to Martin O'Malley's appearance on "The View."

O'Malley's selling points as a presidential candidate include the following things:

  • He was a mayor and governor.
  • He is a good-looking guy.
  • He is in a band and plays the guitar.

Those were all brought up on the rose-tinted set of the show.

"What a looker!" one of the show's hosts said, prompting cheers from the audience. "Honestly. ... That's why I want him to be VP!"

"You also want him to be VP," another said, "because he's got mad skills on the guitar!" (Note to the reader: O'Malley is not technically running for vice president.) Requiring the same amount of encouragement it would take for Trump to talk about Trump, O'Malley grabbed his guitar and started to sing. "It better be a Miley song," one host said — but instead it was Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."

It was not good.

Let's start by saying: Singing a song and playing a guitar on live network television is no joke. If you asked me to sing "Happy Birthday" on network TV, I would demur. The risks outweigh the rewards by a light year.

But O'Malley knew what was up. He brought his guitar. You don't have to bring your guitar on set with you if you don't want to play your guitar and sing. It's possible that he was thrown off by the surroundings and/or the audio in his ear as he tried to play, but the result was not good. Flat. Awkward. Bad. The hosts, longtime masters of feigning enthusiasm, did their best to prop him up. You can see the results for yourself.

Now an aside: Taylor Swift is the most O'Malleyian possible choice for him to sing. Attractive, weightless, bland. Swift is so thoroughly overrated that it's astonishing; her ability to parlay mediocre bubble-gum pop — nah, make that Fruit Stripe pop — into this perception that she's a juggernaut is a feat of marketing that should be the subject of a seminar at Wharton. (Editor's Note: Philip is, not surprisingly, wrong about President Taylor Swift.) The song O'Malley sang, "Bad Blood," was dull enough that Swift's video for it needed to include every famous person in America to distract from how boring it is. Half of the vocals come from Kendrick Lamar, which is about its only redeeming quality.

O'Malley's turn on "The View," in other words, was the freshman guy at the college party who brought his guitar to sing an uninspired song for a disinterested girl.

This isn't entirely O'Malley's fault. It's the fault of the system, as our college freshman friend might say. It's the fault of a political process that convinces otherwise smart people that this is a way to win votes. Did O'Malley win votes Tuesday? Sure. Maybe. Like, six.

But if he won enough votes to carry the nomination, if his singing snore-rock to feigned applause on daytime TV is what put him over the top, I would ask you:

Is democracy, after all, worth it?