Now we know why they call it higher office.
A story in Tuesday’s Daily Journal reported that a recent study had concluded that politicians actually get off – as in get high – on campaigning and can even become addicted to it. This was discovered by experimenting with laboratory monkeys, the closest living relatives of politicians.
Researchers found that politicians, like the dominant monkey in a group, experience heightened levels of several chemicals in the brain including serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine after whipping a crowd into a frenzy, emerging victorious from a heated debate or whacking a subordinate over the head with a banana.
The increased levels of serotonin and other chemicals are said to stimulate elation, confidence and sensory arousal, the latter characteristic having been discovered by defense lawyers in former Sen. Bob Packwood’s sexual misconduct case.
The studies were conducted at the University of California, where researchers compared fraternity leaders with dominant vervet monkeys and concluded that there was no difference with the exception that the fraternity leaders tended to drive flashier cars.
Both groups experienced heightened levels of chemicals associated with the pleasure centers of the brain when addressing their supporters and reduced levels when their status was lowered, such as after losing an election. The researchers suggest that this is also the reason why few politicians ever voluntarily move from a higher office to a lower office.
Like most drugs and Chinese food, apparently in politics a little bit just leaves you wanting more. Perhaps this is why otherwise ordinary men and women will suddenly and gleefully pump their life savings into trying to land a job that pays less than what they spent to get it.
Steve Forbes would have been better off with a cocaine habit.
The research with monkeys also showed that there is an increase in lust among dominant monkeys who strut their stuff and chair powerful committees. The politicians, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, have repeatedly denied that, even when on trial for asking their secretaries if they want to know what filly buster really means.
I have personally witnessed politicians on election nights get the shakes, break out in a sweat and pace up and down a room chain-smoking in anticipation of that fix that comes with winning. By that point the issues have already been forgotten or were just a crutch anyway to legitimize the behavior. What matters is achieving that high that can last for hours or even days.
Pat Buchanan claims it even cures his arthritis, protects him from colds and gives him these really cool flashbacks to his war days when he and Hitler would work a crowd into a frenzy and then go listen to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” with the volume turned way up on the stereo.
So parents beware. If your son or daughter says they’re going to a meeting of the Young Republicans or the Young Democrats, you might want to search their room to see if they’re hiding any campaign contraband. A notepad with ideas for campaign slogans jotted on it is a sure sign that that young person is headed for a life of addiction, public ridicule and constant begging from friends and even perfect strangers for money to support their habit.
Just say no.
But if someone you know already has that dreaded political monkey on their back, research has shown there are two cures: 1) Remove the monkey and send it back to the University of California research lab; or 2) Prozac, which controls the level of serotonin in the brain.
Maybe it should be prescribed for all political animals.
Marty Russell is senior reporter for the Daily Journal.