Despite the release of a Star Wars, a Terminator, and a Jurassic Park movie last year, it is, in fact, 2016, an election year, another in a long line of “most important election in the history of ever,” and president-picking fever is heavy in the air. Every four years, Lebron leaves to follow the money, Clarence Thomas remembers that he has vocal chords, and W&L hosts its Mock Convention. To much fanfare, the political elite of the out-of-power party descend upon Lexington as students attempt to predict their eventual presidential nominee, and the nation watches.
Though Oberlin College’s Mock Convention is older, W&L’s effort to predict the non-incumbent party’s candidate for president, a tradition since 1908, is widely acknowledged to be more accurate and reliable. Only three W&L Mock Con forecasts have been incorrect since World War II – Harry Truman’s rise to power following FDR’s death by a burst blood vessel in his brain, widely considered the greatest election upset in American history, as well as George McGovern’s nomination in the wake of Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick “incident” and Barack Obama’s edging out of Hillary Clinton in 2008, both of which many people considered equally mind-blowing.
In the past, the Con has hosted the likes of Truman, peanut peddler Jimmy Carter, and jazzman and Animaniacs character Bill Clinton, who, in 1988, performed an impromptu saxophone jam with the band and then allegedly sneaked off into the shadows to canoodle with co-eds.
Then-Governor Clinton (D-AR) with Representatives Wakko, Yakko, and Dot (I-CA)
In his speech on the floor, 1956’s keynote speaker and Truman’s former Vice President, Alben Barkley, voiced his contentment to work with Congressional freshmen, stating, “I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty.” He then promptly collapsed from a heart attack and died onstage, a.k.a. the fast track into the House of the Lord.
Throughout the years, Mock Con has accumulated a storied history of fraternizing, fist fights, and philandering worthy of the annals of the leaders of the free world or at least a solid country song. Sign me up!
Because President Obama sits in the White House for another eleven months, 2016’s line-up featured an A-list of Fox News regulars – Newt Gingrinch, Ann Coulter, Grover Nordquist, and others of your grandmother’s favorite TV personalities. And another former Veep with coronary calamities, Dick Cheney, served as this year’s keynote speaker. Thanks, Obama.
From a pool of enough candidates to fill a soccer roster and bench and to keep a heptadecaphobic awake at night, the Republicans have whittled down the hopefuls through primaries (Gilmore, Christie, Fiorina, Santorum, Paul, Huckabee), divine dicta (Walker), and/or the harsh reality of the numbers (everyone who has dropped out thus far). With six candidates remaining as of print time, still enough for a basketball team and a sub, all the disparate supporters of these contenders must unite Voltron-like behind a single nominee.
We built it!
As political elephants stampeded down from D.C. and other hovels to get some insight into whether this feat can be accomplished, W&L painted the town red for a grand ole party.
Student delegates were out in force Friday for the Delegate’s Parade, playfully promoting state stereotypes – the Texans wore ten-gallon hats, the Idahoans Mr. Potato Head costumes, the Louisianians Mardi Gras beads – as locals and visitors lined Main Street on the sub-freezing February morning. When the Colorado delegation rolled through, all triumphantly sporting Broncos jerseys, somewhere Cam Newton shed a single tear and Eli Manning was none too impressed. The nod for best parade float went to Guam, a real shocker for those who worked so hard on other floats or didn’t know Guam was a U.S. territory.
Friday evening, delegates who hadn’t become G.O.P.cicles that morning met in Doremus Gymnasium to be talked at amid patriotic displays of more reds, whites, and blues than a Where’s Waldo mural. Bob Goodlatte, Rich Lowry, and Ann Coulter majority whipped the more conservative members of the crowd into a frenzy before the night’s main event, punctuated by the frequent, un-sanctimonious, and oft-hilarious popping of the overheated balloons overhead.
Friday’s keynote speaker needed little to no introduction. He has played many parts in government over the years, from congressman to Secretary of Defense to V.P., a veritable Peter Sellers of politics, an Eddie Murphy of administration. Detractors say he’s heartless, but I beg to differ. He’s had at least two by now. Ba dum tss! Whatever your opinion of the man, Dick Cheney knew how to work the room, graciously stroking the egos of W&L’s student body, even eliciting an enthused outburst from your easily amused journalist at the mere mention of New Orleans. With a delivery more polished than a Mormon midwife, he praised the enthusiasm and political participation of the young delegates, bestowing his confidence that we would wisely and correctly choose the nominee and, in his estimation, future president.
And Saturday, choose a candidate we did, presenting our prediction for all the world to see. You’re welcome. As they say, dear readers, never look a gift horse in the mouth, a strategy which did not work out so well for the Trojans.
Prior to the announcement, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin got the mock caucus raucous. Admittedly, it was at this time that I heard rumors of a burrito truck outside and got distracted for a few minutes. But from what I gathered, what the party needs in the future is to be full of service, humility, integrity, and tenacity. The road to the White House, like Double Dare, will consist of tough questions, messy challenges, and much flag waving. And, like Family Double Dare, it will hopefully only bring the Republican family together, starting with our prediction from W&L’s Mock Con.
Finally, the votes were in and counted, and the delegates declared their nomination for 2016’s Republican presidential candidate. Gold-plated drumroll, please.
Hint: He wants to build a giant wall to keep illegals out, presumably followed by stockpiling Acme TNT and painting fake tunnels on boulders to trick the Roadrunner. His name adorns more fantastical creations than Lisa Frank.
And the winner of Mock Con 2016, with 1,320 delegate votes, twice the number of his closest competitor, is…Columbia!