Below is a guest-commentary by JLH on our current three-ring political circus.
Where Do Elephants Go To Die?
To Diana West:
Your column of Friday, March 4th sparked some synapses in my brain, leading to my fevered academic version of logical analysis. The column dealt with the recent Republican debate and the display of malfeasance by the Fox “immoderators” in service of their “conservative” masters. As usual, my mind took a side path and ruminated on the significance of the actions of the party elite as it reflected on their chosen symbol.
I thought of other symbols and what they represented. I recalled Benjamin Franklin’s championing of the “noble turkey” as the new country’s national bird. I never like to see Franklin lose, but this was a good time for it. Nowadays, when we call anyone or anything a “turkey” it is not with the admiration we accord the bald eagle. Whatever Uncle Sam may be, the bald eagle is a (literally) hard-nosed predator, who rules the skies.
Then there is the tough, tenacious, indefatigable little creature chosen by the Democrats. Andrew Jackson, some of whose opponents called him a “jackass”, adopted the symbol, much as the rebellious colonists had defiantly adopted the satirical Yankee Doodle Dandy from the British. The donkey was made a permanent part of political lore through the efforts of cartoonist Thomas Nast.
The Republicans, as early as Lincoln, used the elephant, and it too was made permanent by Nast. One simplistic commentary explains that the Democrats see the donkey as smart and brave, and the Republicans see the elephant is strong and dignified.
Perhaps they also believe in the legendary “Elephants’ Graveyard” — where some people believe old elephants go to die alone, and with dignity. Perhaps the Republican high command had such a fate in mind for that rogue elephant, Donald Trump. Among other things, they have compared him to a carnival barker and even made the deadly comparison with P. T. Barnum.
They may have something there. Barnum, the showman, was responsible for bringing the largest known (African) elephant to the United States and making him one of the premier attractions in “the greatest show on earth”. “Jumbo” the elephant became arguably the most famous animal in the world. When he was killed by a runaway train in Canada, Barnum donated the skeleton to the Natural History Museum in New York City and the stuffed hide to stand in Barnum Hall, one of his philanthropic donations to Tufts University. Since then, the Tufts teams have been known as the “Jumbos” and the word itself, as an adjective meaning huge and oversized, entered the American lexicon. The original Barnum Hall and its original Jumbo were destroyed in a catastrophic fire, but the legendary animal was so much a part of the school’s persona, that private donors have financed a life-size bronze statue which now stands on campus in front of the new Barnum Hall.
As Barnum went his own way, almost always offending someone, but always entertaining, fascinating and exciting his public, so does The Donald. Clearly, the Republican elites hope to guide Donald Trump to his lonely political graveyard, not so much because they care about his being wrong on certain issues, but because his financial independence threatens to unravel the intricate weave of favors and counter-favors that cocoons their power and prestige. He must be gone, no matter the cost to the ordinary voters. And so the big dogs have sent the little dogs after him to nip at his elephantine heels and outdo each other in feats of derring-do.
“Breathes there a politician with ambition so dead
That never to himself has said
This is my own, my very best chance!” *
Their actions thus far suggest that they should trade in their age-old symbol for something more fitting. How about the jackal? Where do jackals go to die?
|*||A pastiche of the sixth canto of “The Lay of the Last Minstrel” by Sir Walter Scott:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,