From the outside, putting out a liberal weekly newspaper may look like the easiest scam the publishing gods ever invented. And most of the time, it's exactly that. But it has its occasional disadvantages, too. Witness this week's issue, which was cobbled together in the desperate hours leading up to Election Day. With no way to predict the outcome of that fateful exercise in representative democracy, we find it difficult OK, flat-out impossible to determine what our audience is going to find funny and/or insightful after the dust of this hard-fought contest has (hopefully) settled. So we're not even going to try. Instead, we're reaching into the archives for a little lesson in Orlando Weekly history. Here in its original, unexpurgated form is the Dog Playing Poker column readers discovered when they picked up the Nov. 10, 1960 issue of this news-paper.
Hey there, hep cats and hodads! Excuse us for sounding like we're about to jump right out of our clamdiggers but wasn't that election the craziest?
Relax; we're not going to spend an entire column barking at you in hootenanny jargon. It's just a literary device we were using to get the attention of all the 18- to 34-year-olds out there. (Our parent firm, the E-Z-Burn Coal Company of Scranton, Pa., says that those folks are going to be our most lucrative demographic in just a few short years, so we'd better start sucking up to them now.)
But no matter your age or literacy level, you have to agree that this nation has rarely been as divided as it was last week, when Senator John F. Kennedy won the White House over Vice President Richard M. Nixon in a squeaker of 118,574 votes. Not since the War Between the States has America come so close to finding itself split right down the middle. And that's no idle analogy. It's the informed opinion of our publisher, Sanford W. Beauregard, who was 7 years old back then and regularly regales us with tales of growing up under the Stars and Bars. He's an invaluable source of cross-generational wisdom, even when he's going off on one of his unfortunate, absinthe-fueled diatribes against the Negroes.
Anyway, our country didn't need a Beauregard last week to point out that this was one close contest. Having the future of the free world decided by a margin of less than 150,000 votes is a sick-making experience we don't wish to see repeated in our lifetime. We can only thank God that a conclusion was reached, and that the process didn't descend into anarchy. Had the Electoral College vote been as close as the popular vote, the decision could have been thrown to the courts, or even the Congress. And that would have been a catastrophic blow to the democratic principles we all hold dear. How would you feel knowing that the president was picked not by the people, but by the justices of the Supreme Court five of whom were appointed by Mr. Nixon's boss and political "father," Ike Eisenhower? Frankly, leaving the whole thing up to Steve Allen would make us sleep better at night.
Given the closeness of the outcome, it's only logical that it brought with it its share of controversy. Almost overnight, charges went up that President-elect Kennedy owed his victory to rampant voter fraud. The picture was particularly cloudy in Chicago, where it was alleged that Mayor Daley had stimulated Democratic turnout via the judicious use of certain time-tested campaigning tools, like improperly funded spaghetti dinners and spiked baseball bats. There were also whispers that voters who agreed to cast multiple ballots under fictitious names were offered "first crack" at Sargent Shriver's daughter the minute she reaches the age of consent. Ferreting out the truth (if any) behind these allegations is thankfully beyond the purview of Orlando Weekly, and a task we will happily hand over to our colleagues at our Midwestern sister paper, the Chicago Progressive Milquetoast Be sure to look under the car before you turn the key in the ignition, fellas!
But even from our safe vantage point thousands of miles away, we can see the real lesson of this election: The era of big money in politics is over. We as a people cannot afford to have another presidential race held hostage to deep-pocketed movers and shakers like Joe Kennedy. Those coarse and lumbering dinosaurs are about to be shunted off the political landscape with sweeping finality. Never again will an election be tainted by the unbridled ambition of a landed aristocracy not to mention the use of poor little Maria as a bargaining chip.
And what of the night's big loser, Vice President Nixon? You don't have to be a Criswell to see that he's finished, as well. Being unable to capitalize on eight years of remarkable prosperity has almost certainly sullied his reputation beyond the point of rehabilitation. Many armchair analysts are attributing the veep's loss to his poor performance in the candidates' historic televised debate, in which the flop sweat pouring off his brow seemed voluminous enough to float an Alka-Seltzer in. But we don't think that this ballyhooed techno-Waterloo will set much of a precedent for elections to come. We're holding to our opinion advanced many times in these pages that television is a medium on its last legs. It's a fading fad, like the Slinky or Lena Horne.
Then again, we've always been quick to afford Nixon a singular status. After all, he's been a unique source of amusement to us as a newspaper. Throughout both terms of the Ike epoch, we've enjoyed every opportunity to treat the red-baiting Dick to heaping helpings of his own medicine, and our deepest regret is that we won't have him to kick around anymore. When we think about what fun we could have had with him as president no, there's just no percentage in torturing ourselves that way.
What does seem germane right now is for us to issue a fervent call for healing. It's time to put the fractiousness of this election behind us and embrace the culture of limitless possibility a Kennedy presidency heralds. The next time one of our Republican neighbors grumbles about the result of this election, it would behoove us all to consider what a dignified and inspiring model our electoral process really is. In many corners of the globe, the transfer of power is still a gutter-level business redolent of baseless accusations and juvenile recrimination; not so our proud republic, where gentility reigns.
And remember: In some especially backward areas, political change is only effected via the crafty application of violence, which some deluded extremists see as a worthy substitute for the diplomatic and reasoned exchange of ideas. Like the rest of the nation, President-elect Kennedy and Orlando Weekly are both fortunate to operate in an environment where differences are settled at the bargaining table, not at the barrel of a gun. We welcome John F. Kennedy to the White House, and wish him the greatest success in accepting his destiny as our handpicked personification of peaceful governance.