Last night the husband and I were watching videos on Onion News Network, including one in which it’s reported that John McCain “vows to replace Secret Service with his own bare hands.” (It’s pretty funny, as “John McCain is one mean **********” jokes go, but it contains some language that doesn’t quite meet the standards of couth for this blog.)  So I was thinking about how we elect presidents, and how many folks base their votes on something other than a careful analysis of the candidate’s policy positions and resume.  Usually we speak of this pejoratively, like a person will vote based on which letter is after the candidates name (“R” vs. “D”), or which candidate you’d like to have a beer with, or which candidate is taller–you know, superficial stuff like that.  (Yes, party affiliation, height–it’s all just window dressing.  What happened to discussing the issues?)  And I was thinking that it’s entirely possible–nay, probable–that a large segment of the American electorate does in fact pick the president on the basis of who would be more likely to win in a fistfight.

Think about those elections in recent memory.  Say what you will about President Bush–say he’s unfit to be president, that he’s the worst leader of the free world you could possibly imagine–that could all very well be true, but can you seriously argue that he wouldn’t clean John Kerry’s clock in a fair fight?  Seriously, who couldn’t clean John Kerry’s clock?  Robert Byrd, maybe.  Maybe.  If Democrats did in fact hold fistfights instead of primaries, Howard Dean would have been the nominee in 2004.  He still would have lost in November because the man is crazy and has no discipline–but it would have been a lot more interesting to watch.

I think Bush could have taken Al Gore, too.  Maybe not Al Gore today, as he’s bulked up a bit and under a lot less stress–plus, he has that Nobel prize he can clonk people over the head with.  But Al Gore in 2000 was another story; he hadn’t come into his own yet, he lacked confidence.  I would have been totally comfortable with a fistfight in lieu of a recount in 2000.  We could have left the Supreme Court out of it altogether and the nation would have healed much faster.  (Easy for us, as we weren’t the ones getting the old Texas one-two in the face repeatedly.)

And I think it’s obvious that Bill Clinton would have won both of his “elections.”  I mean, Bob Dole only had the one good arm, God bless him, and he wasn’t taking Viagra yet, so far as I understand it (which, admittedly, I don’t, and I don’t want to, so don’t correct me).  And even if George H.W. wasn’t the wimp everyone thought he was, how was a man of his genteel demeanor supposed to take on both Bubba and Ross Perot?  Not that Ross Perot is that tough, but how was “41” supposed to concentrate on taking the big guy down with old H. Ross yapping at his heels the whole time?  What a nuisance!  Even in a two-man fight, though, I suspect Clinton would have prevailed.  Bush was out of touch, and Clinton would have helped him feel America’s pain, if you catch my meaning.

As for 1988, I think we all know that the only person Michael Dukakis could take in a fistfight is John Kerry.  And maybe Gandhi, but only because Gandhi is dead.  And a pacifist.

Ronald Reagan was 69 years old in 1980, but according to his doctors he was in amazing physical condition for a man his age.  He could have taken Jimmy Carter in, like, five minutes.  Reagan was even older when he ran for re-election, and less spry, but when your competition is Walter Mondale–no offense to him, but come on.  And anyway, what kind of American bets against the Gip?  (Oh, really?  Well, I guess we know which America you pledge allegiance to.)

I would venture that almost every president elected in the twentieth century would have won in a fistfight against his opponent, with the exceptions of Jimmy Carter (unless someone kidnapped Gerald Ford and replaced him with Chevy Chase) and Woodrow Wilson.  Yes, even FDR would have won most of his bouts–not because his opponents were too “gentlemanly” to fight a disabled man, but because FDR had very good upper-body strength, and he would have used the wheelchair to his advantage.  (I came this close to minoring in history in college.  I bet you can tell.)

And by this measure–i.e. fisticuffs–we can see that John McCain is the rightful Republican nominee this year.  If we’d had fistfights instead of primaries, Mitt Romney would have been down for the count in Iowa and wouldn’t have dared to show his face in New Hampshire.  Huckabee would have gone a few more rounds, but never having mastered the roundhouse kick (despite all of Chuck Norris’s tutorials), he would have had to concede in Florida.  Ron Paul wouldn’t have been in competition because fistfighting isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution.  And let’s face it, the other guys didn’t want it badly enough.

As for the Democrats, Hillary would be your nominee today.  Not because her opponents were afraid to fight a girl, but because she is just that bada$$.  I’m still half-expecting her to win in November.

So, just as an amusement–something to keep us entertained until the party conventions this summer–here is a 2008 Presidential Fistfight Poll for you:

Take my poll!