Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller has broken some new ground, and it is not just his primary victory over Senator Lisa Murkowski.
If elected, Miller would be the only member in the U.S. Senate with a beard, or even facial hair for that matter.
For decades, political consultants have instructed their candidates to shave off any facial hair. At one time, just about every politician had facial hair, but that was a long time ago.
The last President with facial hair was Howard Taft. The last nominee for President was Thomas Dewey. Some claimed he lost the 1948 Presidential election to Harry Truman because he had a moustache.
1948, and 1944 when Dewey ran against Roosevelt, were probably not good years to wear a moustache. There was a fellow in Germany who gave the toothbrush moustache a bad name. In Russia, Stalin was still alive with his bushy moustache.
In 2006, The Hill reported on the reasons for the lack of facial hair, using some of those reasons.
“Political consultants, image consultants and etiquette experts say research shows that politicians who wear mustaches and beards don’t poll well. Voters don’t trust a candidate with facial hair. Think Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Genghis Khan.”
Bin Laden can be added to that list as well.
In a way that association is odd. There are plenty of icons in politics, like Abraham Lincoln, where the facial hair is inseparable from the image. Whenever a picture of a beardless Lincoln appears, it looks as if something is missing.
Lincoln began the beard craze that would last for close to half a century. It is believed that the Civil War fueled that trend. Soldiers lacked hot water, sanitary conditions and the time to shave. The fashion stayed after the Civil War, but things changed early in the twentieth century.
A hygiene movement swept the land and beards were seen as unhygienic. Gillette began selling the safety razor with disposable blades. On top of those changes, World War I finished off the beard. A clean-shaven face was needed to fit snugly into a gas mask.
Miller has the good fortune of being from Alaska. The rugged political atmosphere there is probably more tolerant of a beard. Senators Charles Schumer and Tom Harkin grew beards but they never lasted. So now the Senate is beardless, unless Miller is elected.
In the House, facial hair is more tolerated, but even then it is only a few who wear it. They are usually Democrats.
If Miller had lost a close election to Murkowski, then his scruff beard would have been blamed.
Miller, who is the front runner, has the hopes of a lot more than just his Tea Party backers behind him. The oppressed bearded minority is anxiously awaiting his fate.