smell test

I always knew politics smelled funny but I never know how much until now.


Seems a couple of braniacs led by Brown University political scientist Rose McDermott have conducted a study showing that we can sniff out like minded people just from their body odor. So it ain’t only dogs that can find their friends with their noses, you can too.

I won’t get into the ugly details, but essentially people from one political persuasion smelled body parts and bodily fluids of people from other political persuasions to determine if they were simpatico. Turns out liberals didn’t like the rancid smell of conservatives and conservatives recoiled at the smell of Patchouli … who whudda figgered?

This phenomenon may have its origins in evolution (something else conservatives don’t like the smell of.) It seems that living in the same cave with some idiot that voted for the Druid Party, while you voted for the Neo-Pagan party made for bad bedfellows. So nature stepped in and made us smell different so we could hook up with other like minded individuals and live more peaceful lives … This biological smell test was a useful evolutionary development – Otherwise how would ancient man know if the cave next door was voting for the conservative Pro-Magnon Party, led by that young firebrand John McCain, or going with that new more liberal, Hunter-Gatherer Re-distribution of Nuts and Berries party? Back before newspapers and Fox News the only way to “sort them out” was to “sniff them out.”

Neanderthal’s could only make crude grunting sounds, had no real spoken language (much like today’s teenagers) and couldn’t write at all due to their short stubby fingers. Back in the day you couldn’t simply ask your fellow cave-dude whether he supported bloated, spear-point proliferation programs, or if he was for increasing subsidies for the Endowment of the Cave Arts (The underfunded Lascaux Cave District was a big issue at the time.) Back then you had to club the asshole over the head and smell him to know what his politics were.

This evolutionary olfactory identification system of like minded individuals led to the first Gated-Cave Communities, consisting mainly of Cro-Magnon conservatives, while the Libanderthals re-located to the more Urban-Cave districts, to be closer to good wine stores.

I decided to do a quick, impromptu study of my own by going to several gatherings and dinner parties to let my nose determine what was what. I subtly sidled up to individuals and gently sniffed their necks while they conversed … Note: Some people get very uncomfortable when you start sniffing up and down their wife’s neck at a party, so try to be discreet.

There was a wide variety of smells, not all pleasant I might add. But generally I found the results enlightening.

Color me a tad biased but I established that conservatives had the distinct smell of fear and a whiff of ass, while liberals smell like sunshine and inexpensive merlot. Folks of the Libertarian persuasion smell of confusion and moldy coon skin caps. The Socialists among us smell disgruntled and marginalized and wanted to over-share, while the commies had a strong scent of potato vodka about them. Independents don’t smell like anything … absolutely odorless. The one Log Cabin Republican present smelled of repression and deep self-loathing. (Though he did hit on me, I thanked him, but declined, but not before spritzing him with Patchouli hoping he would re-think his idiotic politics.) Black and Latino Republicans smelled very similar to the Jewish Nazi’s in the crowd, rather hard to tell them apart. The splinter groups were interesting – Green Party adherents smell like a new Prius and flip-flops. The Modern Whig Party folks smell really, really old and as a whole are badly dressed.

I have several close friends in Washington and they agreed to help out with my little olfactory experiment. After sniffing around on Capitol Hill for a few days they inform me that:

  1. Mitt Romney smells like a crisp million dollar bill.
  2. Mitch McConnell smells like Bengay and old underwear.
  3. Dick Cheney smells like chicken shit, burning sulfer and napalm.
  4. Bill Clinton smells like … well, we all know what Bill smells like, you sly ‘ol hound dog you!
  5. Joe Biden smells like an old basketball from Amtrak’s lost and found.
  6. Al Franken smells really, really funny.
  7. Mike Crapo – the Republican from Idaho … well, self explanatory.
  8. Chris Christie smells like greasy corn dogs and that cheap Hai Karate aftershave from the 60’s.
  9. John McCain smells of stupidity, incompetence and uncontrolled anger, similar to Sarah Palin, which explains their close connection and his really poor choice.
  10. Colin Powell smells a lot like Judas.

It got me thinking, could things other than politics be sniffed out? Religion perhaps?

Does a Catholic smell like deep childhood guilt, while a Lutheran smells like poorly disguised contempt? And what about a Recovering Catholic; what does guilt mixed with a dash of hope and optimism smell like? Do Hindus exude the aroma of enlightenment while Episcopalians simply smell of cocktails and divorce? And what does an Amish person smell like? The Amish are peace-niks and wear straw hats like liberals, but are incredibly backwards, and wear suspenders like conservatives – Do they smell of freshly mown hay and a head full of manure? If Baptists smell like shame with a whiskey chaser, how do you tell them apart from the bouquet of your local, garden variety alcoholic? And I’m guessing that Atheists and Agnostics would have the Darwinian scent of overly developed monkeys.

Well as intriguing as it sounds to be able to size folks up simply by taking in the scent of room’s inhabitants, this smell test may not be as accurate as one would like. I think I will have to stick to reading bumper stickers to really get the feel of a person.

Illustration by Trevor Stone Irvin
Trevor Stone Irvin

Trevor Stone Irvin

Illustrator and Designer living in the Candler Park area...At one time I worked at the Atlanta Constitution and then for CNN at the all seemed too much like real work so I went freelance...which my father defined as "being unemployed for a real long time".