Here in the Upper Midwest if you go to any local county fair you are apt to see politicians vying for the constituency vote. And sometimes they will do that in very humbling and often unusual ways. Take, for instance, the politician who will sit on a stool and milk a cow the old fashioned way — by hand. In most cases this publicity stunt does very little to prove they will be adept at governing once they hit the capitol steps. Even so, it gives the onlookers a chance to laugh at someone who often doesn’t work in ways that ordinarily creates much hilarity.
But courting the constituency vote in this Midwestern manner pales in comparison to what they do down in Florida. That’s right. In Florida apparently it’s in vogue in one small city for the politicians to prove their worthiness for office by grabbing a live possum by the tail. The key here is to hold it high…hold it carefully…hold it tight so…well, the damn thing doesn’t struggle up and bite you in the arm. It’s not enough to have a positive stance on the issues…nope, here you must also roll up your sleeves and eventually prove there are no bite marks.
Maybe in Florida they use the possum as some kind of political litmus test. If the possum can bite you…how in the hell would you be able to withstand all the growling and teeth-showing that goes on across from the political isle at the legislature. Much like ground hogs are relied upon to predict the longevity of winter in Pennsylvania, why not a possum to serve as some sort of soothsayer capable of determining political viability in the Sunshine State.
Of course it extends much deeper than this. Not only does a candidate need to hold a live possum, but they must also prove they can stomach the taste once it is served up on the platter. As one candidate put it… “You know that part where they say it tastes like chicken? That’s a bad chicken.” I suppose so. But for the photo-op and the humility it shows, most of these politicians will simply grin and bear it to put on a good show for the voters.
And so it goes for most politicians no matter from what what part of the country they might hail. They do whatever is necessary to get the vote. I can’t help but make the comparison to NASCAR and what they call “silly season.” In the motorsports world this is the time of the year when teams and drivers shuffle their allegiances to sign new deals often with a completely different team. Is it really much different in political circles? The political “silly season” lasts for months leading up to election day then the behavior magically disappears usually on the first Wednesday in November.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a candidate say… “no, I’m not going to grab a possum by the tail or a cow by the teat. It’s not naturally me to do that sort of thing. My actions are not just publicity stunts but revolve around serious behavior for making important life decisions that affect many.” Of course, candidates have long since learned that by doing so will probably not get them elected. They have to comply with local social pressures even if this dictates they must act out-of-the-ordinary a la some kind of fraternity/sorority pledge behavior.
Indeed, in all parts of the country the political silly season is in full swing. Sportsmen are likely to see candidates for office performing just about any type of behavior if they believe it will gain them some votes. This includes hunting and fishing. Is it enough for you to see a picture of a candidate holding a big fish to prove they are outdoors savvy? Is it enough evidence for you to see this same candidate holding a gun out pheasant hunting to know they will make the right vote when important conservation measures come before them?
At times politics can be a great source of comedy…but this is usually only during the political silly season. Once these folks get down to the business we elected them to accomplish the laughing and juvenile behavior must quickly subside. I’d like to think most sportsmen put careful thought into choosing the right elected official, but the truth is far too many people step into the voting booth not really that educated about the people they plan to vote into office.
Remember, it’s not what the political candidates do before they get into office that really matters to our life. If they want to play with possums and have their photos snapped doing so…more power to them. But don’t allow this grandstanding to serve as any kind of proof they are the best candidate for that office. These folks are not auditioning to do Dave Letterman’s “Stupid Human Tricks.” Instead, they are auditioning to represent you and the future of our beloved outdoor heritage. Don’t be confused by all these political antics when the time comes for you to step into that voting booth this coming November.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.