For my money, nothing says “election year” quite like a New Jersey attack ad—a cross between cage boxing and a cockfight. Yet, I hear people all the time say they’re sick and tired of the endless campaigns, adolescent sloganeering and self-serving character assassinations.
OK, so it’s me listening to myself go on, rather than actually hearing it from “people.” Anyway, I’ve worked up a little pocket dictionary here to help “people” have a better understanding and appreciation for what I believe is perhaps the greatest event on the social calendar (with the possible exception of a strip-mall weekend carnival).
Battleground state. Usually a place in no one’s vacation planner, known previously only for the number of strip-mall weekend carnivals held there.
Campaign. An excruciating yearlong (or more) exercise in lapel-pin-wearing, fake-sniper-fire revelation and don’t-forget-the-possibility-of-assassination finger pointing to determine which candidate is Tweedledee and which is Tweedledum.
Campaign contributions. A sum of money to secure that all the promises made on behalf of the people will have no chance of actually being kept.
Candidate. A combination of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Yoda (Princess Leia, in the case of a female candidate) who promises to change the way things are done in Washington, even though Washington likes things just the way they are.
Debate. Similar to a playground full of bratty, name-calling school children; helps to further diminish the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Election day. One of the truly inspiring days of national unity, when more than 100 million voters simultaneously play a game of “eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”
Elective office. Where successful candidates disappear in order to begin raising money for re-election.
Electoral college. The only college without a football team, which nevertheless uses the principles of the Bowl Championship Series to determine the leader of the free world—particularly when voters have selected someone else.
Electoral math. A method of calculation in which “one man, one vote” doesn’t really have to add up that way. See electoral college.
Exit poll. An unbelievably accurate predictive statistical tool whose precision makes a person wonder what the voting machines are really hooked up to (if they are at all).
Hanging chad. Replaces ballot stuffing as a more sophisticated method of altering the outcome of an election.
Negative ad. A form of alchemy believed to turn bald-faced lies into golden truths.
Pundits. People who ceaselessly explain the confounding intricacies of the blatantly obvious, the painfully apparent and the plainly seen.
Re-election. An affirmation of the belief that you can fool all of the people all of the time.
Running mate. Someone who hails from a state famous for its strip-mall weekend carnivals and is now viewed as critical to “electoral math.”
Touch-screen, paperless balloting. See hanging chad.
Victory speech. In which the victorious candidate confesses that everything said about the opponent in the campaign was “just kidding around,” and that the party must unify now behind Tweedledee. Or is it Tweedledum?
Reid Champagne’s senior thesis, “How to Stay Awake During an Election Cycle,” has been donated to the Library of Congress for use as a doorstop.