One of the great joys of living in Texas is the ample opportunity it affords for absurdist political moments. Consider, for example, the following: Austin, where I live, allows for early voting. This afternoon I stopped by the mall to cast my ballot, in a little roped-off area in the atrium outside the JC Penney. They’re using those new electronic voting machines, and as I stood in line, a volunteer gave me a sheet of instructions for how to use them. A pretty straightforward process, as you can see; nothing to make you raise your eyebrows.
Until you take a close look at the sample ballot, right there under “3. Make Choices.” For State Rep. District 36, you’re invited to contemplate a hypothetical choice between Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, and … Can it be? Is it possible? Yes, it’s Charles A. Lindbergh. Look again: It really does say that. What’s more, it’s Lindbergh for whom, in this little mock election, the vote is cast.
Since Grover Cleveland was a Democrat, Lindbergh is presumably representing the Republican candidate here, but who knows if that’s a deliberate dig, and if so, at whom? Maybe someone at the Travis County Board of Elections is a big Philip Roth fan. Maybe they’re a Philip Roth hater. Maybe they have a wicked sense of humor, or maybe they just missed all public mention of the most widely covered novel of the last few years. In any case, whoever designed this little flyer, and whatever they had in mind, I salute them. The campaigns are slick and the voting process is serious, and that’s just fine. But it wouldn’t be Texas—hell, it wouldn’t be America—if there weren’t a few occasions when all you can do is stare at what you’ve been given and say, “Hunh?”