A man who did not live in Wyoming was once the Democratic Party’s nominee for that state’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His campaign consisted entirely of sock-puppet videos.
Los Angeles Times
Restaurants are finally open for take-out, and as I walk in the door with my California Pizza Kitchen 1/2 portion Waldorf salad (blue cheese instead of the vinaigrette dressing, please) I hear the clatter of a remote control bouncing off the screen of our TV and hitting the floor in the living room.
I peek my head around the corner and on the couch I see Spot, the former spokesdog for Pets.com, whom my wife picked up for a song when that particularly hare-brained internet company went under. He’s shaking his head from side to side, a look of disgust on his little face.
“June, I’m home!” I call out in an impression of Ward Cleaver I’ve been working on for decades. Spot glares at my attempt to lighten the mood with antic frivolity, so after I put my salad in the fridge I plop down next to him on the couch.
“Beaver, have you been watching the news on television again?”
“What’s got you so up in paws?” I say, laying on the avuncular unction with a trowel.
“This country is going to the cats!” he snaps. I pick up the remote and mute the sound–the best way to watch TV!–and begin to administer the talking cure that has done so much to soothe troubled minds of Western Civilization from the ancient Greece of Socrates to the neurotic Vienna of Freud.
“You don’t have to watch television, you know,” I say, pouring a little highbrow oil on the stormy seas of a temperament agitated by televised political controversy.
“I suppose you expect me to sit around and read nineteenth century novels like you, huh?”
“It’s a more sedate way to come to an understanding of human motives and behavior.”
“Look at these little arms,” he says, holding out what are in fact his legs. “How am I supposed to hold a big book like . . . what’s the one you’re reading now?”
“Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.”
Charles Dickens: “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get out of this post at the next paragraph break.”
“How long is that one?”
“And why in the hell would anyone want to read an 800-page book?”
“I wanted to track down the quote ‘He do the police in different voices,’ which was T.S. Eliot’s original title for The Wasteland. It comes from Mrs. Higden, a character in the book who takes in orphans, and one of her wards–Sloppy–reads the newspaper to her and when he comes to a quote from the police he . . .”
A light buzzing sound, as if there’s a fly in the room, strikes my ears. I look over and Spot is feigning sleep to express his boredom.
“Okay, I get the message. Still, you wouldn’t get so agitated about politics if you’d turn off the Idiot Box every now and then and read a book.”
The snoring sound has turned to a whimper, and when I look over I see now that Spot has buried his face in his paws. Could it be that beneath his cynical carapace he has a vulnerable side?
“You okay?” I ask hesitantly.
“Yes. Well, no.” he says with a sniffle. “In case you didn’t know, I never progressed much beyond ‘See Spot Run!’ with my reading.”
“Being the hero of the first book you ever read went to your head?”
“Sorta. Also, I couldn’t turn the pages. I don’t have opposable thumbs like you.”
“Well,” I say, acknowledging his limitations as gracefully as I can, “the other thing you can do is get involved in politics. So many people I know are frustrated because they just vent on social media all day long. If they actually did something . . .”
“Like those stupid state-wide petition drives you did in the nineties?”
“Did you see the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed with me yesterday in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue–twenty-two years later?”
“Was it on the sports page?”
“No, but I’m serious. You ought to try getting involved. At the end of the day you would feel the benefits of having exerted yourself, as opposed to just stewing in your own juices.”
He turns and gives me a withering gaze. “I may be a stupid puppet, but at least I know that dogs–especially puppet dogs–can’t vote.”
“I didn’t say you could. But you could help in other ways.”
“Well, there are a lot of candidates who don’t live in the state where they want to run for office.”
Spot can’t stifle a laugh at this absurd assertion. “Get out–name one.”
Carol Hafner: “Excuse me–what state am I in right now?”
“There’s Carol Hafner, a Democrat who wants to represent Alaska in Congress even though she doesn’t live there, doesn’t plan to campaign there, and has never even been there.”
“You’re making that up.”
“No I’m not–click on this link.”
“Hmm,” Spot says after he skims the news story. “But what does that have to do with little ol’ me?”
“You didn’t read all the way down,” I say.
“The part about the New York man who ran for a Democratic senatorial nomination in Alaska and lost?”
“No, next paragraph, about the Arizona man who ran for the Democratic nomination for Wyoming’s seat in the House of Representatives in 2014. His campaign consisted almost entirely of sock-puppet videos, and he won!”
Spot gives me that RCA Victor-dog look–head tilted to one side, like he can’t quite figure me out. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Don’t you see?” I say. “There are so many bright, talented people who’d like to get involved in politics, but they can’t. There’s an incumbent in their state who’s going to hold office until he or she dies. They’d love to devote themselves to public service, and there are 49 other states in the Union with open offices. If they take the path of the guy in New York and campaign without sock puppet videos–they’re doomed. But if they do what the guy in Arizona did and craft a carefully thought-out campaign that consists almost entirely of sock puppet videos broadcast in a state where they don’t live–they win!”
Spot takes a deep breath, then exhales what he’s just inhaled. “So . . . I could become a king–or queenmaker, huh?”
“You have the power, big guy!” I extend my hand for a high-five, which is a high-one in his case because he doesn’t have reticulated fingers.
He takes the remote from me, turns off the set and gazes wistfully into the middle distance. “You know, I’ve always wanted to . . . give back to society.”
“That’s great. I was hoping you wouldn’t end up just a grumpy old armchair critic.”
“No, I want to make the world a better place through targeted investments in public infrastructure.”
“Really?” I say with surprise. I’ve wasted . . . spent a good part of my career pushing for improvements in that area without much success. “You never mentioned it before–where would you start?”
“More fire hydrants.”