Swole The Vote: Why Politicians Love Pushups

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, wants to stand out from ordinary politicians. So this week he posted a video of himself doing shirtless push-ups in a parking lot — you know how potential presidents do it!

The 69-year-old son of Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy flaunted his body in a clip that has been viewed over 15 million times. “Get fit for a Kennedy presidency!” He tweeted.

His workout in only jeans at a Gold’s gym in Venice Beach, California – a mecca for muscle men – drew a lot of positive feedback reporting and served as an implied contrast to 80-year-old Joe Biden, the oldest president in US history.

It’s arguable that American voters will crave a set of ripple muscles in the Oval Office. But the prominent vaccine skeptic is not the first politician to flex his muscles to improve his image or instill strength in voters. For many politicians, displaying physical prowess can be a way to deflect questions about their age, stand out in a crowded environment, or simply make themselves more personable or charismatic — although it doesn’t necessarily work.

Anyone remember John Delaney’s historic candidacy?

The former Democratic congressman from Maryland ran for president in 2020, in part attempting to stand out from the crowded primary field Split Videos of him doing push-ups and deadlifts in tight t-shirts. Delaney was jacked like hell. But it did nothing for his election campaign. He ended his campaign just days before the Iowa primary.

The desire to be seen as a beefcake rather than an egghead isn’t just limited to younger congressmen. The longest-serving Republican senator in US history, 89-year-old Chuck Grassley, has often highlighted his exercise habits in campaign ads.

In 2021, Iowa Republican and then-44-year-old Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) performed a 22-push-up demonstration — although some would say they were half push-ups — to raise awareness about suicide to sharpen military personnel. And in 2017, an 83-year-old Grassley challenged a much younger reporter to a push-up competition and reached his number at 25.

But being strong doesn’t mean being invincible. After winning an eighth Senate term last year, Grassley broke his hip in what he called “a stupid maneuver in my kitchen,” leaving him briefly in a wheelchair. The sprightly senator is back taking steps in the Capitol but recently said he will not run again just yet.

This is not a new phenomenon. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond (RS.C.) celebrated his 65th birthday by doing 101 push-ups and one more for the photographers.
This is not a new phenomenon. The late Sen. Strom Thurmond (RS.C.) celebrated his 65th birthday by doing 101 push-ups and one more for the photographers.

Bettman via Getty Images

The President of the United States is another fan of suggesting feats of strength when challenged at his age – although he doesn’t. In 2019, while a tense exchange When an Iowa voter told the then 77-year-old that he was too old for the presidency, Biden threw down the gauntlet.

“You want to check my form, let’s do push-ups together. let’s run “Let’s do whatever you want,” Biden said told the man, who was 83 himself and apparently didn’t accept the offer from the current president, who has one stiff gait and has tripped and fallen in the public.

That same year, Biden joked called he would challenge Donald Trump to a push-up match. He himself suggested wrestling with a HuffPost reporter in response to a question about voters’ concerns about his health. “What the hell is that about, man? Do you want to wrestle?” (For the record: We’re still waiting, Mr. President).

Other politicians just love sharing videos of themselves exercising, especially new congressmen.

In February, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.) posted a video of himself bench press 405 pounds, which is a lot. He told HuffPost at the time that his ultimate goal was to do two reps with the same weight. (After all, it’s called the House of Representatives.)

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), then member-elect, doing push-ups on Capitol Hill in 2018.
Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), then member-elect, doing push-ups on Capitol Hill in 2018.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

It’s not just boys either. In 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) posted a video of her doing pushups along with a colleague to blow off steam between hearings. In February, conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) did a couple of butterfly pull-upswhich look incredibly strange to anyone unfamiliar with CrossFit.

And never forget what we may say iconic Time Magazine from 2012 Photo shooting Then-Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan demonstrates some bicep curls with an inverted hat against a moody blue background, in possibly some of the most embarrassing “fitness brother” pics of all time.

Of course, there are other ways to show your fixation on masculinity as well. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) released a book earlier this year called Manhood in which he urged American men to “stand up and accept their God-given responsibilities as husbands, fathers and citizens.” The Missouri Republican argues that masculinity is not “inherently problematic” in the way liberals make it out to be. (The book doesn’t say how many push-ups Hawley can do.)

As if to set a counterpoint, Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) challenged a combative committee witness this week to a real cage fight. The witness, a union president who called Mullin a “greedy CEO” and a “clown,” did not accept the challenge within the three-day deadline set by Mullin, leaving the two fighting with words. It is probably an improvement on the historic way of settling disputes in the House of Lords: Duels with pistols.

Of course, after pride comes decline — especially on Twitter. Though he looks muscular, Kennedy revealed his weakness to Twitter users who wondered why he seemed to have a hard time doing just eight and a half push-ups in his video.

“I can do more than 10 push-ups,” he assured them. “That was my last sentence.”

Then-Senator. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) did 46 push-ups in a 2014 bet against ice hockey.
Then-Senator. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) did 46 push-ups in a 2014 bet against ice hockey.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

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