“I was born into politics, a wedded man with a storm for a bride.” Huey P. Long
Political campaigns are never over. Politicians are like fleas, impossible to eradicate. The Blue team has ventured into the deep South where the cannon smoke of Ft. Sumter and the spirit of rebellion still hangs heavy in the humid air of Charleston’s harbor. They fared no better than Ft. Sumter.
Yesterday the carnival of comedians and its handlers gnawed and gnashed upon itself in a mad frenzy hoping to persuade somebody, anybody to hand over to them the reigns of power and purse. They stopped short of blood, which would have made the debacle worth watching.
Without politics, life is dull. The thrill is gone, until a sanctimonious candidate hits the stage. Then things get interesting. Let me tell you of my experience with such a candidate. His name is Junior, a real Southern politician.
My cell rings. It’s Charlie, my attorney. “Get down here now. You need to meet my good friend, Junior. He can walk on water. He’s running for reelection in Nassau County, Florida.”
Charlie is Junior’s campaign manager. He was once a boxing promoter. His legal and promotional literature has similar qualities.
“Hey, I can’t vote in Florida,” I say. He ignores the comment.
“Look, you vote with your checkbook., or some loose Ben Franklins.”
“Can Junior really walk on water?”
“Well, let’s say he can move mountains with the right incentive, if you know what I mean.”
I arrive and join the curious crowd milling around in Charlie’s back yard making small talk. Mostly men, a few women. Smoke billows from the charcoal cooker. BBQ is the staple food for political rallies. I contemplate the similarities between pigs and politicians. I feel pity for the pigs.
“Charlie, where’s Junior?”
“Junior smells money. He’ll show up. Have another beer.”
“Does Junior understand quid pro quo?”
Charlie grins. “Of course, he’s a politician.”
“What’s his last name?”
“Not sure. Doesn’t matter. You’ll see.”
A black SUV pulls up. Junior emerges. He’s huge. His aura is awesome. Some people have power in their organizations, but Junior has power in himself. The crowd goes silent.
He swaggers out. He’s an actor. Timing is critical. Self-confidence oozes. He loosens his tie. His suspenders groan over the bulge beneath his blazer. He sweats.
He has the eyes of an assassin…sharp, cold, steely. They survey the crowd. He wears a grin like a Baptist preacher holding four aces at the Friday night poker game. I feel his smile. It counts the cash in my pocket.
He grips my hand with a plow-share paw. My toes recoil in pain. He hugs me and says, “Whatcha say, hoss?” I feel small.
He hugs women. They swoon. He glad-hands the men, high fives a few, slaps some backs. He points at some, nods at others, winks at everyone. We’re all affirmed. The carnival begins.
“Every man’s a king, folks. That’s my slogan. All the others before me are robbers and thieves. Now give me another chance.” The crowd nods.
“Listen, everything I did I had to do with one hand, because I had to fight with the other. Amen?” The crowd applauds.
“I’m gonna fight for you. They give the little man a biscuit to eat, and load him down with a ton of taxes. You had enough?” The crowd cheers.
“Republicans or Democrats, they’re all the same. They’re just waiters who serve you the same grub, prepared by the same Wall Street Kitchen. That’s gonna change.” The crowd roars. Amens resound.
“Look, I have enemies. They don’t like my politics. But friends, I’ve got alligator hide and Jesus inside. I fight fire with fire. You’re with me or against me. No middle ground. Reward or retribution. Amen?” Wallets come out.
“Listen, my opponent has robbed you and covered up the shallow grave. The corpse still stinks. I’m gonna expose the crime of this illegitimate scoundrel is covering up. Now, I don’t use profanity, I’m just referring to the circumstances of his birth.” Wild shouts of approval erupt.
“The media says I’ve got skeletons.” A few women snicker. They know the gender of Junior’s skeletons. After all, he is a politician.
“Folks, I’m a deacon down at First, washed in the blood. Yessiree, lily white.” A tear trickles down Junior’s cheek. Hallelujahs are heard.
Suddenly his speech becomes manic. His fervor is intense. His fists beat the air. He pounds his chest, grips his lapels, jerks his tie loose and flings his jacket to the ground. His body contorts. His passion tears him. The crowd shouts wildly in a frenzy of evangelical ecstasy.
Then, as soon as it began, it’s over. His shirt is wet, his jacket lies crumpled on the grass. He regains composure. He concludes with a benediction: “Every man’s a king.”
He’s mobbed by the crowd. Cash and checks fill his pockets. Then the carnival leaves.
I look at Charlie. “What did he say?”
“Who cares. We got a winner here. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
I do, leaving poorer but wiser, and feeling good about government again.
“Alligator hide and Jesus inside.” What a combination.
February 28, 2020
Posthumous credits for ideas from Huey P. Long and Hunter S. Thompson.