Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Favorite-Ever Presidential Candidate

The first Presidential election I remember is the 1968 election. I was in second grade for most of that year (the actual election came when I was in third grade, my year as a "playah"-- more on that another time). It was a weird year-- my second grade teacher was sick, so she would teach for short stints, and leave. We had a succession of subs who slowly lost control, until a very strict sub, Mrs. Never (I'm not making this up) came in and straightened us out.

We had our little rhymes: "Humphrey, Humphrey, he's our man/Nixon belongs in a garbage can" was our amazingly clever poem. They would reply, devastatingly, with "Nixon, Nixon, he's our man/Humphrey belongs in a garbage can." The level of political debate was amazing.

Most people forget that segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace won over 13% of the popular vote and actually won the electoral votes of five southern states in the 1968 elections.

There was one other candidate in that election, albeit a gag candidate: Pat Paulsen.

Paulsen was a writer on the Smothers Brothers show. The Smothers Brothers were a comedy duo, disguised as a folk duo. When all the other kids at school complained that they had to watch Lawrence Welk with their parents, I had a smirk of superiority; didn't everybody get to watch the Smothers Brothers with their parents last night?

The Smothers Brothers discovered that Paulsen was a deadpan comic genius. In 1968, the Smothers Brothers pursuaded him to run for President as a gag. His reply? "Why not? I can't dance — besides, the job has a good pension plan and I'll get a lot of money when I retire."

I couldn't find a good video clip on Youtube, but I found a few quotes:

"All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian"

"If elected, I will win."

"I've upped my standards...now up yours!"

Paulsen continued his gag campaigns, and got actual votes. According to Wikipedia, Paulsen came in second to George Bush in the 1992 North Dakota Republican primary, and second to Bill Clinton in the 1996 New Hampshire primary (Paulsen's 921 votes gave him 1% of the vote).

Pat Paulsen died in 1997, ending his Presidential runs, though even dead he couldn't do much worse than the current imbecile.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic. I remember my first political action was chanting on the bus to school: McGovern McGovern He's Our Man, Nixon Belongs in a Garbage Can!" I think I switched sides a couple times, though. Depending on who was sitting next to me.

Thank God I remained a McGovern man!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It was much more confusing for us Canadian kids, with multiple political parties.

And I just read in the paper that the Smothers Brothers are touring! (I was pretty sure they had died)

Johnny Yen said...

When I was in sixth grade, we had mock elections. I was McGovern. The kid who was Nixon ended up being one of my best friends back then. We had campaign speeches-- I kept talking about napalmed babies, but like the national elections, Nixon won anyway.

Yeah, it was pretty simple in my family-- Democrats good, Republicans bad.

My father campaigned for McGovern. I remember he and one of the neighbors sneaking over to the neighbor's Nixon-supporting father's house and putting a McGovern bumper sticker on his car. Mischief runs in my family.

The Smothers Brothers are alive and well! They, like Pat Paulsen, Francis Ford Coppola and everybody else, own a vineyard and produce wine.

There's a really good movie about Tommy Smothers' struggle with CBS to politicize the Smothers Brothers show-- it's called "Smothered."

When CBS cancelled the Smothers Brothers show, they replaced it with Heehaw. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Chris said...

I never heard of him. He sounds like my kind of guy!

Anon. Blogger said...

Wow, the memories that brings back! Paulsen was great. My parents weren't particularly political, but I remember my older brother, who was serving in the Air Force after having been DRAFTED, joking about putting a McGovern bumper sticker on my dad's new car. It was not a welcomed idea.

I would love to talk to my dad today (he's dead though) and hear his thoughts on that one. It's hard to believe that a parent with a child anywhere near that conflict could have supported what was going on. My dad was a really smart guy, so it would be a good discussion, I think.

Nah...He was smart, so it was probably just that he didn't want to mess up his new wheels with a bumper sticker! 1969 Cutlass, white with a black vinyl top...sweet.

Johnny Yen said...

I think he would be.

Anonymous Blogger-
My father-in-law, a dyed in the wool Republican, has voted for the Democratic candidate in the last two elections. I think that the Republican party has veered so far from legitimate economic issues into lifestyle issues, and alienated a lot its base. I suspect your father might be changing his stripes these days too, if he were still around.

When I was 28, in 1989, I had my midlife crisis early-- I bought a 1972 Cutlass Supreme convertible. It was definitely the cat's pajamas. I don't know what I was thinking when I sold it a couple of years later.

Bubs said...

Thanks for the Pat Paulsen memories! Speaking of McGovern/Nixon in 1972, I remember going with my dad early in the morning to vote before he went to work. He was the first one in, and as he walked out he announced, loudly, "WELL, THERE'S ONE FOR MCGOVERN AND NONE FOR NIXON." 8 years later he was voting for Reagan.

Johnny Yen said...

My father will deny it, but yes, he too voted for Reagan in 1980. He has since turned away from the dark side again.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I remember watching the Smothers Brother's Show as a kid, and I remember being really confused about why my parents thought Paulson was so hilarious.

Us kids used to act out the Smothers routines we learned from their records. We also did the same with my parent's Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Shelly Berman records. Looking back on it, it seems like my parents were training us to be funny.

We also used to be allowed to watch Laugh-In, and when they did the gag with the joke painted on the placard, which they would only show for a second or two, we kids would yell to Dad "What did it say? What did it say?", and he would tell us, and we would laugh like hell, even though 99% of the time we had no fucking clue what the joke meant.

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, JY.

Erik Donald France said...

I remember this one well, including Pat's run. We were in St. Paul by election time and most voted for Hubert. I remember my Dad driving me by his house one time. There was one kid from Tennessee who voted for Wallace and a few votes for Tricky Dick.