Rodent Politics or Why Elian Gonzalez's mom is turning in her watery grave.
"I'd rather be the benevolent dictator of the Disney enterprise" --Walt Disney, upon being asked if he considered running for office(1)
Political adviser James Carville once commented that elections were about fucking your enemies, and winning was about fucking your friends. As I write this, the hordes of constitutional lawyers of all persuasions have descended like harpies onto the sun drenched county of Palm Beach, to heartily fuck as many political friends and foes as they can lay their litigious talons upon. This is electoral politics at its bridge-burning best. Whoever loses will disappear from the political scene faster than you can say "Michael Dukakis".
Florida - the state lampooned as where New Yorkers go to die - is also home of the Disney empire. To literally echo Uncle Walt's words, the election has become a Disney enterprise under the benevolent dictatorship of Walt's cryogenically frozen corpse. Not unlike the corporeal Walt, American political life has been chilled to the point where it's aging constitutional cells shatter, deadlocked in an icy grave in the Sunshine State. This is wholly unsurprising as the ability of Team Rodent to manipulate the barren moonscape of US electoral politics both physically and psychologically is frightening.
In 1967, the State of Florida enacted legislation that granted Walt's burgeoning land holdings the status of an autonomous county, under the innocuous sounding name of the "Reedy Creek Improvement Area". This empowered Walt to (amongst other things) tax the Serfs, build massive concrete erections, ignore those pesky waste control laws, and disregard the need to file environmental impact studies - the perfect preconditions to build theme parks and/or plot world domination. Cultural critic Russ Rymer argues that at this point, Disneyworld became "above all else, a governmental entity. Walt's greatest feat of imagineering was his vaulting of a theme park into a polity. Because Reedy Creek's powers are allowed only to popularly elected bodies, Disney instituted a 'government' that remained firmly in company control; voting 'citizens' were a handful of loyal Disney managers. Walt's own enmity to democratic forms was legendary."(2)
It may have taken 3 decades to come to pass, but Uncle Walt's enmity has hit the jackpot of the Millennium, amassing enough land and votes, hearts and minds, to decisively draw the cogs of the archaic election machine to a grinding halt. Whilst Baudrillard's destruction of the boundary between Disney and America was a more
psychological state (a cool memory, for all you pomo-irony junkies), the politics of Disney has finally come to physically decide the
election - one Mouseketeer, one vote - beyond the ironclad lockbox of Reedy Creek. It is so close that there are literally more people in Florida who dress as cartoon animals with oversized heads for a "living" than there are votes dividing the two "real" parties. Not to mention the votes of those eking out a frightened existence in the Disney owned "gated community" named Celebration. I'm sure they submit their ballot to Disney CEO Micheal Eisner upon entering the new vassal state of the word's most famous, neutered, hairless rodent.
"It's all Goofy" --newscaster superman Dan Rather's comment, upon realising that Florida was still undecided at 3am on election night.
At the ungodly hour of 0730 this morning, Bush was leading the polls by a mere 383 votes, but I'm not sure if it was him, I wasn't awake enough to tell the difference between the two campaign candidate photos, and uber-news pet Dan Rather was using the word "chad" far too often for my liking. I doubt that at the time of publishing anything will have changed. If it had, the editorial "team" of the Aggie would have edited out this paragraph. Goofy (and his cartoon cronies), as Dan Rather rather succinctly identified, are staunchly to blame for the state of electoral paralysis. As both politics and Disney drift inexorably towards the middle of the middle of the middle of the lowest common denominator, it's not surprising that voters can't dissociate elections from entertainment, let alone one political party from the other. There is little irony in the fact that both mainstream candidates are disturbingly lifeless animatronic puppets discarded from the Magic Kingdom when Team Rodent discovered computer animation. I still harbour deep suspicions that the boil developing on George W's neck is a screw come loose, animatronic hardware succumbing to the awesome power of a Campaign in Crisis. The Republican Party have the technology, and the support of Arnold Schwartzenegger - the only man whose animatronic self precedes him.
Like Groundhog Day, I predict an endless winter with Andy MacDowell. Bill Clinton will continue his reign of terror with Senator Hillary as offsider, until Chelsea gets her political career off the ground or the Electoral College decides to throw in the towel, and elect the Speaker of the House. Disney will colonize Cuba via Elian Gonzalez and set up missile bases. And then it's all over.
(1) Richard Schickel, The Disney Version (New York: Avon Books, 1969), p.131
(2) Russ Rymer, "Back to the Future: Disney reinvents the company town",
Harpers Bazaar, Oct 1996, quoted in Mark Dery, Pyrotechnic Insanitarium,
(New York: Grove Press, 1999)
Whilst I was working at UC Davis, the student newspaper commissioned me to write a piece on Election 2000 from an "international perspective". I had no idea what this meant, so in true Hunter S-style, I accepted the mission. Armed with multiple cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a typewriter, I vowed to party until the election was decided. And write like the wind when things slowed down. This piece was subsequently rejected, as the editors argued that it was "too offensive" and "too political" and instead ran a puff piece on why frat boys vote Republican.