I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
The former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff, has described politics as a “dirty, loud-mouthed, false, lying business.” Henry Brooks Adams, journalist, academic, and descendant of two U.S. Presidents said politics was “The systematic organization of hatreds.”
Sleaze, Slime, and Skulduggery
- In 2015, Baron Sewel, a member of Britain’s House of Lords, and chair of the committee overseeing ethics, was caught snorting cocaine off the breasts of a prostitute.
- Since 2009, 14 members of the U.S. Congress have been convicted of crimes.
- In November 2015, the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec reported on the widespread use of bribes and kickbacks involving mayors, councillors, construction companies, and Mafia bosses.
And, these are three of the least corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International says for really major league bad behaviour in the public sector you need to go to countries such as, Venezuela, Sudan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. The organization adds that “The scale of the issue is huge. Sixty-eight percent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem. Half of the G20 are among them.”
Then, there’s the less than edifying spectacle of the 2016 Republican Party “debates.” The insults were so egregious that parents should have hidden their children as opponents engaged in a willy-wagging contest. Let us draw a discreet curtain over the whole sordid affair.
Little wonder then that politicians are held in such low regard. Gallup tells us that Members of Congress score eight out of a hundred on honesty and ethics. That’s the same value given to car salespeople and telemarketers.
So, herewith, a compendium of alternatives to human legislators.
Cats Rule …
Barsik the Cat ran for mayor of the Siberian city of Barnaul. His campaign slogan was “Only mice don’t vote for Barsik.” The feline won with 90 percent of the 5,400 votes cast. But, Barsik did not become mayor because his victory was only in an unofficial online poll.
Agence France-Presse said Barsik’s hollow victory was the result of “Political apathy and resentment over corruption scandals at city hall …” Somehow, that has a familiar ring to it.
Stubbs did achieve high office in Talkeetna, Alaska. Here’s The New York Daily News (July 2012): “The part-manx is popular among residents, who voted him into office in a write-in election a decade and a half ago when he was a kitten, after rejecting the human candidates on the ballot.” However, despite the wishes of voters, Stubbs’s status was downgraded to “Honourary.”
Although he doesn't seem too concerned by his demotion (below).
(What is it with Alaska and its election of mayors? One claimed an expert knowledge of foreign relations on the grounds she could see Russia from her kitchen window.)
The people of Xalapa, Mexico became fed up with corrupt humans running the place so they called in Morris, a black and white kitty.
In 2013, two students put him up for mayor on a lark and Morris attracted 150,000 likes on Facebook. His slogan was “Tired of Voting for Rats? Vote for a Cat.” He got 7,500 votes on election day, sadly not enough to unseat the incumbent. His owner, Sergio Chamorro, told The Associated Press that Morris, “… sleeps almost all day and does nothing …” So his political profile could be said to be purrfect, although no competent writer would stoop so low as to use such a dreadful pun.
Dogs Drool …
The folks in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky seem to prefer that dogs wear the chain of office. Goofy Borneman, who is delicately described by the Rabbit Hash Historical Society as having been “born of unknown parentage,” was elected to a four-year term in 1998. Sadly, Goofy died in office and was followed by Junior Cochran, a black Labrador.
Then, in 2008, Lucy Lou, a border collie, broke the glass ceiling. The good people of the 315-strong community have noted that part of her success at the voting booth is based on her promise not to pee on the tires of potential voters.
The electoral process in Rabbit Hash is a little unusual. Voters can cast ballots any number of times provided they pay one dollar for each vote. The proceeds ($21,921 in 2008) go to the local historical society. Also, consumption of intoxicating liquor is permitted, (dare we say encouraged?) during the election.
Lucy Lou set her sights on higher office by running for the presidency of the United States under the slogan “The bitch you can really count on.” Although her barking and howling skills would be a perfect fit for at least one of the established parties she decided to run as an indepawdent.
Her campaign manager, owner, and translator, Bobbi Kayser, told The Huffington Post, “All the other presidential candidates are dogs. Why shouldn’t a real one run?”
Not strictly true Bobbi. Lucy Lou faced stiff competition in fellow Kentuckian Limberbutt McCubbins, a tabby cat. He was running for occupancy of the White House on a progressive platform of fair wages, affordable health care for animals as well as people, legalizing gay cat marriage and catnip, and a just tax code.
Unlike Lucy Lou’s indepawndent stance, Limberbutt was hoping to secure the nomination of the Democratic Party, or, as he prefered to call it, the Democat Party. As Limberbutt might put it “Meow is the Time,” but no self-respecting scribbler would have the gall to repeat that.
The Best Four-Legged Candidate
The rhinoceros has a thick skin and is short-sighted. It is ponderous, but can put on a surprising turn of speed when it senses danger. And, it’s not very smart. To many this is also an accurate description of politicians. That’s what the people of São Paulo, Brazil thought in 1959.
It’s the now-familiar scenario of people getting tired of venal politicians misusing public funds and looking for an alternative candidate. A group of students found their standard-bearer in the form of a five-year-old female rhinoceros at the local zoo. Her name was Cacareco (meaning rubbish), and she became the most popular candidate with 100,000 votes among the 540 people vying for the 45-seat council.
The chattering classes huffed and puffed in indignation going as far as to suggest this outpouring of civil disobedience marked the start of a societal collapse. Election officials were not amused, nullified all of Cacareco’s ballots, and held another vote a week later.
- Cacareco became the inspiration for the satirical Rhinoceros Party in Canada. Among the planks in its platform have been: Building tall schools to promote higher education; repealing the law of gravity; and, genetically engineering mosquitoes so they hatch in January and freeze to death.
- The Roman historian Suetonius tells us that the Emperor Caligula made his horse Incitatus a member of the Consul. Suetonius had a bit of hate on for Caligula (he was not alone in this regard) and may have exaggerated the story a bit. However, it’s still nice to think of Incitatus registering a negative vote by saying “Neigh.” (Profound apologies).
- “Corruption Perceptions Index 2015.” Transparency International.
- “Honesty/Ethics in Professions.” Gallup, December 2015.
- “Disgruntled Siberian City Wants Cat for Mayor.” Agence France-Presse, December 16, 2015.
- “Cat Has Been Mayor of Alaska Town for 15 Years.” Meena Hart Duerson, The New York Daily News (July 2012):
- “Morris the Cat Running for Mayor of Mexican City.” Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo News, June 17, 2013.
- “First Mayor – Goofy.” Rabbit Hash Historical Society, undated.
- “This Dog Is an Elected Mayor, and now She’s Running for President.” Arin Greenwood, Huffington Post, November 2, 2015.
- “About Limberbutt McCubbins.” Limberbutt 2016, undated.
- “Cacareco the Rhinoceros.” Museum of Hoaxes, undated.
© 2016 Rupert Taylor