The Vanity Index: The biggest egos in the Senate.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Oct. 28 2010 3:36 PM

If the Walls Could Talk

The Vanity Index: The biggest egos in the Senate.

Slide Show: The Slate Vanity Index. Click image to launch.

Like Delaware Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell, who memorably taped an ad for her U.S. Senate bid coyly declaring, "I'm You," politicians spend their campaigns desperately trying to pretend they are ordinary folk. But when it comes time to decorate their offices, the theme is often "I am so not you!" Stroll through any senator's office and you'll find scores of mini museums doubling as waiting rooms. The content of their exhibits varies widely, ranging from historical artifacts and sports memorabilia to expansive ego walls dedicated only to themselves.

Vanity map.

There's nothing wrong with being proud of a career achievement or showing off the time you met a celebrity at a charity golf tournament. But when do a few photos or plaques transmogrify into a self-aggrandizing shrine? Where is the line between modest pride and out-of-control egomania?

Advertisement

In a quest to find out, we developed the Senate Vanity Index, a formula that measures the level of egotism displayed in each senator's lobby, the part of his or her office open to the public. (Here's a look at the math—really!—behind our formula. And here's the raw data, in convenient spreadsheet form.) Visiting all 100 offices, we counted every award and picture on the walls—giving special weight to each senator's poses with celebrities, presidents, and foreign dignitaries. We make no claims that our vanity formula is flawless. But we do feel comfortable declaring that we have found a truly bipartisan issue: Of the top 10 egos in our rankings, five are Republicans, four are Democrats, and one is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Six of those top 10 have run for president, but four are leaving office, meaning that some of the Senate's most spectacular ego walls will soon be dismantled. Fortunately, we have captured them for posterity—as well as several more exhibitions of senatorial splendor. View a slide show featuring the top 10 egos in the Senate, as well as a special bonus of some rare displays of modesty.

Darren Garnick is a freelance writer and documentary filmmaker extremely proud of his Ronald Reagan Academic Achievement Award. Photographer Ilya Mirman ironically enjoys posing for snapshots with real and fake celebrities, which he displays in his home office.  

TODAY IN SLATE

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.