Politics has gotten to be so boring. Even candidates who attack each other now put you to sleep with their little predictable, knee-jerk attack ads. Everybody is straining so hard to out-conservative the other that it makes you want to get a large handkerchief and sit on the front porch slapping your leg. Then if you have a brain or just a stem, you’ll need to cry some, too.
Humor in politics is so important because it is the only way we can stand to listen to political talk. Unless you see the silliness you simply cannot stand to watch the news or read the paper during the political season.
We need more one-liners. The only half decent one liner of recent days did not come from a candidate but from Barney Morgan of Dayton who said, “When Curtis Adams switched to the Republican Party, he raised the I.Q. of both parties.” The last one before that dates all the way back to my first re-election campaign when I said of my opponent, “He is a political polecat who must periodically flush out the poison in his system by spraying the public.”
That really was not my best one-liner. When I first ran, my opponent was named Moore and another Moore had fired me and was supporting my opponent. My one-liner ended up on a bumper sticker: “Moore and Moore equals less and less.”
I am a piker in the field of one-line political pummeling compared to some of our founding fathers. For example, Thomas Paine said of George Washington, “As to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you had any.” Now is that any way to talk to the father of a country?
Even newspapers got in on the one-line poundings, like when the New England Courant said of Jefferson during his campaign for the presidency, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”
Even Tennessee’s own Andy Jackson said of Henry Clay, “He is certainly the basest, meanest scoundrel that ever disgraced the image of God – nothing too mean or low for him to condescend to.”
At least these men said what they meant and meant what they said instead of taking little pitiful, consummately boring pokes at each other. Our senatorial contest right now is about as interesting as a pillow fight between 4 eight-year-old girls. One says he came out against abortion way back before he started to shave, another says he spoke out boldly in elementary school and the other recalls he was still in diapers when he made his position crystal-clear. All the while uninsured children die of preventable diseases, the minimum wage hasn’t been changed in ten years, and jobs are being shipped out to China in convoys. This contrast is where the humor is, as dark as it may be.
When General McClellan ran against Abe Lincoln, he had no trouble saying what he thought in a way that a wayfaring man, though a fool, should not err therein. He said, “The President is no more than a baboon. I went to the White House after tea where I found the Original Gorilla about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen!”
Seeking humor I have carefully listened to the rhetoric in all state and local races this time. There are no balls of fire out there this time, my fellow Americans. It reminds me of Senator Thomas Corwin’s advice to James Garfield when he wanted to run for president: “Never make people laugh. If you would succeed in politics, you must be solemn, solemn as a jackass. All great monuments are built over solemn jackasses.”
Right now would be a good time to be a monument builder. Business is about to pick up.
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