This has been, without a doubt, the weirdest election cycle in living memory. If we have learned anything from all the punditry we’ve endured as the field has been narrowed down to the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history, it’s that no one who claims to know anything about politics knows anything about politics.
But knowledgeable amateurs know otherwise–that’s what being knowledgeable is for. There is one American subculture that reliably produces a dark-horse candidate for the Presidency every four years, like clockwork, the Olympics and leap years.
That’s right, the Rhythm & Blues Party.
Every since alto sax man Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson re-worked the Big Bill Broonzy hit “Just a Dream” with a verse that imagined him sitting in the President’s chair, the R&B Party has produced men of the hour who give hope to Americans disillusioned by partisan politics who just want to lay down a loose groove of funky stuff. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, so print out this handy, dishwasher-safe Election 2016 Guide, study it carefully, and bring it to your neighborhood polling place this November.
Percy Mayfield: Out of contention, at least for this fall’s election, is Percy Mayfield, who sang “I Don’t Want to Be President.” Mayfield cited the very public nature of the job–his wife might find out about his girlfriend–and the ever-present risk of assassination: the need, for example, “to have someone taste my cognac before I could take a drink.”
Mayfield’s heir and successor, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, a/k/a “The Gangster of Love,” similarly withdrew from the race, perhaps fearing exposure of his gangster ways, even though he was a decorated veteran, cited for his “funk beyond the call of duty.”
Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson: Father of R&B Candidates
James Brown: Brown dipped his toe into presidential politics with “Funky President,” a cryptically coded thank you note to Gerald Ford, the man who pardoned Brown’s close friend Richard Nixon.
“Where can I buy one of those brand new bags you mentioned–Pat would like one.”
Sadly, Brown is legally disqualified from running because he is dead, but so what? That never stopped Calvin Coolidge.
Taylor: “Foreign policy experience? Dig this Nehru jacket!”
Johnnie Taylor: Not to be confused with “Little Johnny Taylor,” regular-sized Johnnie Taylor supports public policy initiatives that preserve the nuclear family through hits such as “It’s Cheaper to Keep Her,” a diatribe against divorce, and “I Been Born Again,” a testimony to monagamy that echoes a theme popular with evangelicals.
Sadly, Taylor has also withdrawn his name from contention with the song “I Could Never be President,” echoing Mayfield’s concerns. It is a troubling commentary on our politics that good men with bodacious, honking Afros such as Taylor are discouraged from entering public life.
That leaves Louis Jordan, who declared his 1952 candidacy in “Jordan for President,” promising an administration that will “move you, groove you and keep you fit,” instead of Harold Stassen, “a hipster who takes no sassin.’”
Harold Stassen: Rhythm Assassin
The news of late has focused on the Democratic candidate, who collapsed over the weekend from the effects of pneumonia. The diagnosis was kept secret–even denied–for too long. The best approach when dealing with negative news is to get it out there quickly, preferably on a Friday–when she was first diagnosed! But no, the “handlers” and “consultants” and other “experts” who traipse around all day wearing quotation marks on their heads said to sweep it under the rug until it hit the internet, and then it was too late. Unlike Huey “Piano” Smith, who copped to the Rockin’ Pneumonia AND the Boogie Woogie Flu as soon as those two fell diseases hit him.
So you do have choices. You can do the predictable “sane” thing, or you can vote the rhythm & blues ticket, the way young Americans with spunk and moxie and toe jam used to write in “Alfred E. Neuman”–the gap-toothed Mad Magazine icon–for sixth-grade class president.
As French R&B fan Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “America is great because she is funky. If she ceases to be funky, she will cease to be great. Now everybody get up offa that thang.”