When the Joe Biden administration was first transitioning into the White House, there was a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that cited rumors about the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, insisting that staff address her with the academic title of doctor despite having an Ed.D. rather than the more traditional MD or DO of medical practitioners.
The piece was in poor taste, but received more national attention than it should have when co-host for the View Whoppi Goldberg attempted to defend the First Lady by saying she could be Surgeon General if she wanted to, which played into exactly why the people who were against Dr. Biden using the title felt that way in the first place. They felt it was a deception of credentials.
I do defend the First Lady’s decision to give the directive though personally I’m never one to insist my own personal title of doctor be used with one exception - students in the classroom at my university.
Aside from the confusion with the medical profession, I am also not a practicing social science researcher. I do apply teachings from the University of Florida’s doctoral school of mass communication to my political campaigns and use statistical tests learned to interpret data received, but there’s a difference between what I do professionally and the “publish or perish” lifestyle of true academics.
I am going to play Dr. Winsler for a moment, however, and much like Whoopi’s interpretation of Dr. Jill Biden’s degree credentials - I am going to give you a piece of medical advice.
Listen to your body.
This was the first column since I started writing these every Thursday and Sunday in Feb. of 2021, the first in nearly 150, that I almost missed a publication day. Two nights ago, after two years of successfully dodging it, I tested positive for covid.
It happened fast. I woke up at 6 am Friday as I do every morning, proceeded to do strength training for an hour and then went to the Chamber lunch all feeling fine. I spent the rest of the afternoon building road sign frames on behalf of a candidate, sometimes through a torrential downpour, and so when I started to feel a bit chilled when I arrived home there was an obvious explanation.
Still clinging to somewhat of a good feeling, I rode a stationary bike for cardio training and did one more round of stretching upon arriving home Friday evening. But something wasn’t right.
In mid-May, I had actually felt much sicker. My head was more clouded, my congestion worse and my throat was more sore. But I still felt better in terms of energy. I did not covid test until I had to go back to teaching in late-May because it honestly just felt like a head cold, and sure enough, that’s likely what it was since I consistently tested negative.
This was different.
I don’t think I was awake for a full consecutive hour yesterday. While my throat is less sore, my breathing is more labored. While my head is less clouded, my ability to focus for long periods of time is shot. My body was telling me: this was something to take seriously.
This gut feeling plays an important role in voting as well. Today the Chronicle special election section is released in the paper and many tens of thousands of people will be learning about the candidates for the first time.
Snap judgements will be made. How someone feels about a candidate is far more important than a candidate’s ability to appeal to the rational reasons why someone should vote for them.
In Malcom Gladwell’s second book Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking, he explored a study that is of particular interest to me.
Students are asked to give an evaluation of a professor within 30 seconds of hearing them and then again in 3 minutes. These results are tested against the professor’s end of the semester evaluations. In most cases, the 30 second evaluation is close to what the end of the semester evaluation is. The 3 minute evaluations were nearly identical.
That’s how long candidates have to make their impression on how voters feel about them. As responsible voters, we should do our best to recognize these feelings then separate them from our critical, objective analysis of qualifications.
But at the same time, sometimes it’s best to just listen to your body and many voters do just that.