Okay, I confess. I don’t have anything to say about Sen. Boxer’s actual hairstyle. Looks good enough to me, but I’m totally unqualified. For as many years as I remember, I have been doing nothing more than shampooing and running a little gel through my hair with my hands, enhanced by the occasional conditioning. Whatever Sen. Boxer is doing with her hair is far above my pay grade.

But I did want to comment on why Carly Fiorina’s open mic gaffe is important. It splashes cold water in the faces of all us voters. It forces us to dredge up a sickening feeling that, I dare say, most of us have about most of our political representatives — namely, that the persona so carefully constructed for public consumption has nothing to with the actual human being we don’t get to see.

For some, it is fear that the calm, measured, moderate Obama displayed to the public is, in secret reality, the radical Christomuslim terrorist from the world of Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers. For others, it is fear that the decades-long public/private service of Dick Cheney is, in secret reality, just a clever disguise for the energy industry controlling policy in Washington. In the end, we reject Hillary Clinton because we suspect the scarcely-glimpsed hot-tempered bitch is the real her; maybe she shouldn’t be the one answering the call at 3:00 a.m. We reject Sarah Palin because we suspect the scarcely-glimpsed (okay, maybe a little more than scarcely) self-serving prima donna is the real her. In our hearts, more than the excesses of liberalism and conservatism, we worry that our elected officials clock out at the end of the day, and head off to the bars for a night of non-partisan gloating over our gullibility. At some primordial level, we worry that our elected leaders are akin to a scene from a Mission Impossible movie, ready to peel off the full-head latex mask to reveal the incompletely unforeseen character underneath.

And that is what the Fiorina open mic moment reminds of us. What it forces us to confront. If even for the briefest of moments, we have to confront the utterly depressing possiblity that it’s all a big f&^%ing game, being played at our expense. That our leaders are as petty and small and stupid and cynical and uncharitable of heart as we are. Hell, we can’t even handle seeing FDR in his wheelchair, or JFK wearing his back brace, or Obama smoking. A weak electorate makes for bad candidates makes for inept governance.

Yep, that’s why Senator Boxer’s hairstyle matters.

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Okay, I posted that only four minutes ago, and already here is something along similar lines that I came across. Seems that ten years ago Meg Whitman shoved an eBay associate, leading to a $200,000 settlement with the employee. The percentage of the population who physically shove people around at work is what, 0.000003%, tops. I’ve been working for almost thirty years, and never once seen anything like it. I’ve met thousands of earnest, smart, ethical, competent, motivated, sincere people. But, nooooooooooooooo. we have to choose from the likes of them for our elected representation. Bullies and adulterers and narcissists and flat-out criminals. For f$^&’s sake.

We Americans hold two values dear to our hearts that inherently conflict with each other: liberty and equality. Just ask Hamilton and Jefferson. We have struggled for more than two centuries to keep a proper balance between these two. Come November, the people of Kentucky will have a clear choice taken straight out of that historical context.

Rand Paul is a fervently pro-liberty candidate. He thinks liberty is too important for the government to intervene in the affairs of private persons and businesses, to the extent that if they chose to discriminate based on race, religion, etc., he’s okay with that. He himself wouldn’t himself patronize such a business, he makes clear, but government should not force the business owner to end a discriminatory practice. He makes it further clear that he has no interest in actually repealing civil rights legislation; he is simply stating that he thinks the existing legislation strikes the wrong balance between liberty and equality, without proposing to amend the balance.

Jack Conway will position himself as a fervently pro-equality candidate. He will defend the idea that government should step in – i.e., should limit personal liberty – by imposing civil rights obligations on private persons and businesses who would otherwise discriminate against groups we currently consider protected under the law.

Each of these is a perfectly rational and consistent political paradigm. Personally, I think that the Conway’s view, which is the status quo, is more mainstream and will connect with more voters. But I don’t live in Kentucky, so I don’t get a say in this one. Let the campaign begin.

Politics is a winner-take-all sport. There is no prize for second place. There is no prize for securing a party nomination. One person gains elective office; everyone else has to settle for talking head gigs on Fox News and MSNBC opinion shows.

This brings me to the Kentucky Senate primaries held Tuesday. The media noise is all about Rand Paul’s trouncing of Trey Grayson, 206,000 to 124,000. And deservedly so: a political novice beating the Senate minority leader’s hand-picked candidate by a 5:3 margin is quite an achievement, and quite a testament to the force that the Tea Party brought to bear on the primary.

Meanwhile, Jack Conway eeked out a quiet victory in the Democratic primary for the same Senate seat, beating Daniel Mongiardo by 227,000 to 221,000.

But, again, nominations are nothing but preludes to elections. Neither Rand nor Conway has his hand on a Bible yet. The important question to be asked this Wednesday is whether Rand, or the Tea Party, has a strategy for defeating Conway. After all, the runner-up on the Democratic side had more primary votes than Rand.

Consider this: Comparing primary voting results, Conway starts with a 20,000 vote lead over Rand. Let’s give Rand the benefit of the doubt, and suppose in November he retains every vote cast yesterday for his Republican opponents. That would mean Rand has to convince a whopping 42% of the people who voted yesterday for Mongiardo and the other Democatic candidates to switch to him. That is a monumental undertaking.

It doesn’t take a political genius to understand that Rand was nominated by dominating the rightward end of the political spectrum. He needs to find hundreds of thousands of votes beyond that narrow base. What message will he bring to the November campaign to accomplish that?

Primary results: http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/senate/kentucky