Every November, I start thinking we should all have to stand for re-election, from doctors to cops to customer service people. It’s an idea that has occurred to cartoonist Ruben Bolling too, since one of his “Tom the Dancing Bug” comic strips shows no less a figure than God himself out on the hustings.
“GOD’S ELECTION CAMPAIGN,” the caption reads, next to a campaign poster with a shot of the Creator himself, duly robed and bearded and standing against a background of stars and planets. “My 12 billion year term is almost up,” he is seen declaiming, one finger in the air, “and I need your support for 12 billion more!” Then caption underneath says, “God for Supreme Deity’’ with the persuasive slogan, “Hey, his name is GOD!!”
Mr. Bolling knows one thing: name recognition counts for a lot in any contest. Think about it:
Many‘s the obscure candidate voted into office around the east because his last name was Kennedy. John Kerry never pretended he was a Kennedy but how my mother fumed back in the 80s when he first broke on the scene with his middle name beginning with “F.” “He’s no JFK!” she sputtered, as if he thought all he needed to win office was those magic initials.
People may not be that dumb but still: it’s pretty amazing to hear how often they say they enter the voting booth with no idea about why they’ll pull the lever for a particular candidate. Many say they don’t decide until the last minute, waiting on some flash of intuition, some welling-up of that warm fuzzy feeling, that “Reach Out and Elect Someone“ mentality that media expert Neil Postman describes.
It wasn’t always like this: In my desk I keep a letter written in 1899 to my grandfather, a first-generation American whose mother could read and write only in Gaelic. Sent from Danville, Kentucky, the letter is written by his Uncle Patrick, an immigrant with no formal schooling – and goes on for two full pages in precise and tiny script about the ways in which Presidential Candidate William Jennings Bryan’s ideas are consistent with those of the Founding Fathers.
You don’t see many voters with that kind of grasp of the issues these days, boy. These days in presidential election years, we all want somebody who seems dignified and all that but not, you know, boring to look at, or tiring to listen to, or God forbid in this youth-centered culture, wrinkled. We want someone Presidential, but not, you know, too challenging. Someone Presidential, but not demanding anything of us. (What would John Kennedy say if he saw what become of his Inaugural Day “Ask Not” directive?)
Well I guess we have a whole year to work ourselves into a tizzy over this issue so let’s return to the Tom the Dancing Bug strip we started with. Here are the words in its final panel:
“The campaign was not going well. God’s previous inaccessibility made his attempts at positive publicity seem disingenuous.”
Then there’s a drawing of God, microphone in hand, saying, “And I’m sure this new shopping mall will bring prosperity to the whole tri-county area!” while out in the audience, an unseen heckler yells “`Hey GOD! I prayed for a job eight months ago and I’m still out of work!”
Good satirist, that Ruben Bolling. He almost makes you wish God would make a few selected appearances – though I have a feeling if he were to, he might just bring along something bigger than prosperity, and to more than just the tri-county area.