Personalities, not policies, shape barber shop customer opinions

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

Everyone knows if there’s anyone who really has their fingers onthe pulse of a community, it’s the one listening to the talk frombehind the barber’s chair.

Local barbers and hairdressers said talk about their clientssuggests overwhelmingly that the 2008 presidential election reallydoesn’t have a lot to do with Republican presidential candidateJohn McCain or Joe Biden, the Democratic vice-presidentialcandidate. At one barber shop, it’s all about the women.

“They’ll tell you in a heartbeat the Republicans have theprettiest women on the ticket,” said Tammy Laird, of BrookhavenBarber Shop on Whitworth Avenue, referring to GOP vice-presidentialcandidate Sarah Palin and aspiring First Lady Cindy McCain.”They’ll tell you it’s all about the red shoes.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Meanwhile, Undrea Brooks at Creative Hair Dezigns says her shopon Center Street is generally full of talk about the man at the topof other presidential ticket.

“Well, everybody we talk to, they’re kinda pulling for(Democratic presidential candidate Barack) Obama,” she said.”They’re not really talking about McCain and Palin.”

And Vernell Hooker at Antecho Salon said he’s noticed that mostpeople aren’t even thinking about what the candidates are sayingthey stand for.

“People aren’t talking so much about the platforms,” he said.”And while we hear a lot of negative about Palin, you just don’thear a lot about McCain.

“And you definitely don’t hear anything about Biden, it’s almostlike Obama’s running by himself.”

The people in the chairs are not shy about sharing opinions,either, and will deliver their political preferences withrazor-sharp precision as well.

“I don’t want Obama to win,” said Roger Smith, of Brookhaven. “Idon’t care much about McCain either, but I have a really weirdfeeling about Obama.”

Smith said though he’s traditionally a Republican, he actuallyhad a better feeling about Hillary Clinton than McCain.

“I have nothing against Palin being in office, but McCain is tooold, and she could end up our president,” he said. “I would havevoted for Hillary instead of Obama, even though I’m a Republican.McCain just has no spunk.”

That drew a quick rebuttal from barber Jill Case.

“Well, he’s an old war veteran, what do you expect?” she said.”He’s been shot at!”

Antecho hairdresser Lori Dudley said the recent presidentialdebate in Oxford was a good sounding board for a lot of undecidedvoters, and that it was interesting to see the candidates side byside.

“To watch it, you could really see both of their sides,” shesaid. “They have some of the same views, but I think people arereally ready for a change. I think they’re thinking McCain mightnot be much of a change.”

Creative Hair Dezigns patron Angela Moore said Palin seems to bea knee-jerk response to the power packed by a Democratic ticketwith a leading black candidate.

“I think (McCain) chose Palin because with Obama being the firstblack, he figured he had to get a first as well,” she said.

Hairdresser Sabrina Kelly, also from Creative Hair Dezigns,pointed out that the interesting set of players on the stage thisyear has attracted the attention not only of voters in thiselection, but voters in the coming years.

“A lot of kids are really paying attention to this election,”she said. “This is going to be one of the biggest elections in ourlifetime.”

And 14-year-old Parker Vinson, standing across town in theBrookhaven Barber Shop, proved her theory.

“Obama’s got no experience,” he said. “John McCain needs towin.”

But Hooker put it in perspective pretty well. From what he’sseen, he said the party lines are drawn, but the ticket is mixedenough to give a lot of voters pause.

“You have the people that will vote for Obama because he’sblack, and the ones that will vote for McCain because of SarahPalin,” he said. “Then you have the ones who will vote againstMcCain because of Palin, and the ones who will vote against Obamabecause he’s black. It mixes things up to have a black man on theone hand and a female on the other.”

Meanwhile, the Brookhaven Barber Shop girls say the electionbecame interesting when Palin was added to the Republicanticket.

“The only reason I went to register to vote was Palin’s speech,”said hairdresser Mindy Jones. “McCain just doesn’t have anycharisma.”

Case pointed out that a good personality doesn’t make a goodpresident.

“Charisma won’t run the country,” she said. “Obama has charismabut doesn’t tell you a thing when he talks.”

Meanwhile, most of the hairdressers and barbers polled reflectedwhat seems to be the sentiment of the general public – that findingthe finish line in the election will be a relief.

“I hope it’s over soon,” said Kelly. “It’s been a long one, andI’ll be glad when it’s over. But it’s definitely history in themaking.”