As the presidential primaries continue to grab all the attention, a parallel but less publicized contest has been taking place among familiar characters.
I refer, of course, to the battle between Mrs. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United Holidays of America. As you know, the Republican nomination has already been sewn up by the Great Pumpkin.
As it happens, the Great Pumpkin was not the first choice of many in his party, because he has not shown up for the true believers on many occasions. Still, he is a respected figure in the nation and even some who prefer other vegetables have a kind word for him. With his ruddy glow, the Great Pumpkin has the appearance of a venerable figure.
The other candidates in the Republican primaries didn’t have much of a chance. The Tooth Fairy was always going to be a loser. From the start, he was plagued by silly questions about whether Tooth Fairies are in the same religious tradition as other Americans.
Moreover, the Tooth Fairy seemed too well groomed and therefore not macho enough for the red-meat voters in the red states. Worst of all, it was known that in his own sphere of influence the Tooth Fairy had brought kiddies money for their spare teeth. To some, this sounded suspiciously like a government entitlement program if not dental socialism.
Among the other candidates, Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating groundhog, was a bust. Of course, he lives in Manhattan most of the year (celebrities refuse to live in burrows), but groundhogs who root around indiscriminately in the big city are never going to be popular in the country at large. Moreover, he just couldn’t sway the voters by predicting more weeks and years of fearful winter in the war on terror.
The surprise of the Republican primaries was Huckleberry Hound, not a traditional holiday character to be sure, but then again every day is a holiday in America when the cartoons are on. With his sense of humor, aw-shucks manner and his traditional beliefs, Mr. Huckleberry had some early success.
But in the end the party’s nomination went easily to the Great Pumpkin. Coming out of the Halloween observance, he is now well positioned to spin scary tales that can take him all the way to the presidency, according to the tried and true formula.
Meanwhile, the Democrats go on being Democrats — in other words, ripping themselves to shreds, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, finding flies in every ointment, and taking the silver lining from every cloud and putting lead in its place.
The Easter Bunny is still hopping down the bunny trail with most eggs but Mrs. Claus is clawing her way back. This is a historic contest. No Easter Bunny has ever been president and for that matter no female has ever ruled over the Holiday House.
The greater challenge has been that of the Easter Bunny. After all, what do people really know about the Easter Bunny? Where does he live when he’s not bringing the eggs around? Well, thanks to this campaign, we now know it’s Chicago, but still people have questions.
Unfortunately, rumors have flourished in this climate of suspicion. At first, it was said that Mr. Obunny was a secret pagan, because eggs were obviously part of pagan fertility rituals he had learned as a boy.
However, that preposterous falsehood was soon abandoned by his critics for a better line of attack. Yes, they now concede, he does go to church but the pastor there was as mad as a March hare. Mr. Obunny then made a fine speech explaining the context of his friendship with his pastor. It was a very daring speech because he treated the voters like grown-ups, not the core constituency that an Easter Bunny must impress to win.
Mrs. Claus is surely loving this. It takes the minds of the voters off her husband and the blizzards of controversy that beset the North Pole during his tenure as president, including that unfortunate incident with the young female elf. Indeed, many voters suffer Claus fatigue at the very mention of either of them. As for her claims of superior experience, she wasn’t the one in the toyshop at 3 a.m. when the red emergency phone was ringing.
The irony, of course, is that both Mrs. Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren’t far apart on the issues. They both want to bring people stuff for the holidays. The Great Pumpkin won’t bring the people anything, unless you happen to be rich.
Where will it end? As you ponder that, Happy Easter!
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)