Friday, July 07, 2006

Election Whowunnit


The recent electoral roller coaster in Mexico has brought back memories of our own ballot recount controversy in 2000.

Well, who could forget that, really? At the time, however, I was spending about half of my time in London, so I managed to get an earful of the British reaction to our election troubles. Needless to say, it was merciless, and quite funny. In one infamous, endlessly forwarded e-mail, British wags suggested the following "official" response to the citizens of the U.S. from the UK Home Office:

In the light of your failure to elect a proper President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections.
with the following ensuing demands, among others:

. . . You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game . . . Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders" which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

. . . The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

. . . Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).
The British jokes about the 2000 election, more often than not, always carried a little bitter aftertaste that seemed to be unmistakeably related to the loss of the colonies in the 18th century, so it was not surprising to me when I saw the BBC interviewing a British pop culture historian about why the British were having such a field day with the U.S. election crisis. The historian described, in very serious tones, the way in which British pop culture has, during the last century, acknowledged that U.S. as a "superpower" has eclipsed Britain -- not only on the world political stage, but in the dominance of Hollywood and the American media; and that, by way of the 2000 election, the British were given a perfect opportunity to take the piss out of their younger and currently more successful cousins across the Atlantic, and regain a sense of superiority.

The best part about the interview was its conclusion. When asked whether the British gags about American politics were likely to continue, the historian noted: "No, probably not. After the election controversy is over, I suspect that we'll be going back to making fun of the French like we always do."

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