It was a bad week in mid-August.
Donald was imploding and Hillary should have been, but Donald kept grabbing the microphone. Nobody was thinking about e-mails because Donald kept spinning out one-liners. The Democrats were simultaneously frightened that he might win, and exulting in the poll numbers that said he wouldn’t. The Republicans were furious at lost opportunities, and tearing their hair out over the poll numbers.
On Sunday, August 14th, Billy Joe Barker sat down in front of his computer to compose his weekly commentary for the Tulsa World. The column was called Thank God Its Monday, but this night he simply couldn’t find anything to be thankful for. He had had such high hopes for Trump, but that was only a bitter memory now.
Then inspiration took him by the throat. His fingers flew across the keyboard and he hummed happily as he typed out the doom of a poor schmuck who had never done him any harm.
Please Mr. Custer
If you are old enough, you may remember a novelty song from 1960 called Please Mr. Custer. A trooper was complaining to commanding officer, who happened to be George Armstrong Custer, that he really didn’t want to go with him on his ride out to see what the Indians at the Little Big Horn were up to.
I don’t blame him. Nobody blamed him. It was a good laugh and nobody thought the trooper was unpatriotic for yelling, “I don’t want to go.”
I thought of that trooper today as I remembered my column of August first. It was about Leap Alan Hed, the boy who was born on leap day. Kids teased him so much when he was young about his name, Leap A. Hed, that he got back by counting his age by leap-year birthdays. He told me himself, when I interviewed him over the phone, that it was a piece of silliness he regrets to this day.
I invited him to run for President as a humor candidate, and offered to carry his campaign in this column. He turned me down flat, and I called him the sanest man in America because he really doesn’t want to be President. He didn’t even want to pretend he wanted to be President.
The trooper in the old song said, “I don’t want to go,” and Leap said, “I don’t want to be President.” Fifty-six years apart – the last two sane men in America.
I wanted to vote for Trump, I really did, but I can’t. Hillary – never mind. And the outliers, not them either.
On November 8, I am going to write in Leap Alan Hed, the last sane man in America. If you find Donald and Hillary as unpalatable as I do, I invite you to join me.
The piece was picked up by AP and UPI. All across the nation, every anchor with two minutes to spare read part of it on his broadcast. It became a phenomenon.
The reason was clear to those who paid attention. For a year, Donald Trump had given the talking heads something to cover. He was fun; he was colorful. He was safe. Nobody in his or her right mind thought he would ever win anything, and the rest of the Republican candidates were a dreary lot.
Then he won the nomination. The talking heads felt panic, and a massive sense of guilt at the idea of “What have we done?”
By the time relief arrived through Donald’s spiraling self-destruction, they were really tired of him. And they had always been tired of Hillary. Leap was a breath of fresh air. Leap was something different they could talk about, and he was safe. No one could ever take seriously the candidacy of a man who refused to run.
It seemed as safe as betting against Donald had seemed.
How quickly we forget.