An Article That Wasn’t Supposed To Be About Politics
Photograph of P.J. O’Rourke and Clio By Frank Saul
The week before the election, I went bird hunting… to take my mind off politics.
As if anything could take anybody’s mind off politics the week before the election.
I meant to spend a few days without having any political thoughts. Yet political thoughts – like the ruffed grouse, woodcock, and pheasants I was hunting – kept popping up in the woods, the same way politicians keep popping up in the media.
I was tempted to start pretending the birds I was shooting at were certain politicians. I didn’t do that. My aim might have been better if I had. But I don’t believe in shooting politicians. For one thing, they’re hard to clean. Also, shooting politicians would be wrong…
Although, it might be OK to trap them… using humane Havahart live-catch traps, of course. Then you could release the politicians in some distant political wilderness (let’s call it a “Lowlife Refuge”). Set them loose, for example, in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, which I understand is currently unoccupied.
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Then I began to feel bad about comparing noble upland game birds to such lowly things as seekers of elective office. After all, the birds so excel the politicians in grace and beauty (not to mention taste).
Also, I have a way of finding excellent game birds. But I do not have a way of finding excellent politicians. And, looking around at who gets elected in America, nobody else does either… We need a political version of my method of discovering what I’m hunting for, which is my bird dog Clio.
She is a Brittany spaniel with a superbly sensitive nose. She can detect from dozens of yards (with no yard signs needed) pheasants in the tall grass, grouse in the high trees, and woodcock in the alder bush thickets. She pins them down and points them, giving me an opportunity to – so to speak – “elect” them with my shotgun.
Hunting dogs are very smart. They can learn to pursue any quarry. What we need to do is train hunting dogs to sniff out virtue, integrity, firm character, worthy principles, and good leadership. Then put the dogs on the campaign trail.
What happens after that will be up to us and our fellow “hunters” – the American electorate.
One thing that’s important to remember when you’re in the hunting field is that you’re not the only hunter out there during hunting season… just like you’re not the only voter out there on Election Day.
We hunters have to trust each other. But we also have to take precautions to stay out of each other’s way and make sure accidents don’t occur. That’s why we wear blaze orange hats and vests. I suppose that voters wearing red MAGA caps and pink pussyhats is somewhat equivalent.
Nonetheless, bad things can happen in the woods. An innocent hiker can get mistaken for a two-legged deer that left its antlers at home. A harmless mountain biker can be confused with a moose on wheels. And bad things, obviously, can happen at the ballot box. An idiot, according to the dictionary, is a person with a mental age under three. Some hunters are idiots. Some voters haven’t yet reached that stage of intellectual development.
I mostly do trust my fellow hunters. But I’d have more trust in my fellow voters if voting required adherence to as many rules and regulations as hunting does. I have my state’s booklet of official hunting and trapping regulations at hand – it’s 40 pages long.
Unlike voters with voting, hunters are required to prove prior experience with hunting. To get a license, a hunter must produce either a license from a previous year or possess a “Hunter Education Card.” Otherwise, a hunter is required to complete the state’s two-day Hunter Education Course.
Below is what my booklet of official hunting regulations says about that course. I have changed the wording – using cross-outs and bracketed inserts – to show what a “Voter Education Course” might be like:
In a Hunter [Voter] Education Course, you’ll learn about firearms and archery [legislative and regulatory] safety and handling [prudence and accountability], outdoor [inside smoke-filled room] safety and survival skills, hunting [Constitutionality of] laws, and your responsibilities as a hunter [voter].
Meanwhile, as I proposed earlier, our hunting dogs – trained to seek virtue, integrity, character, principles, and leadership – have been roaming the political landscape trying to find decent candidates. What if they come up empty?
I’m familiar with this dilemma, as a hunter as well as a voter. My state’s population has been growing. More homes, stores, and commercial buildings have been built in what used to be bird covers. With fewer farms and orchards and more timbering and paving, the number of wild game birds is down. One answer to the problem is to breed game birds in captivity and put them out on hunting preserves. This is already being done both privately and by the state’s Fish and Game Department.
Maybe we could do the same thing with politicians. Science has made enormous strides in genetic engineering and artificial insemination. Perhaps we could raise a flock of new politicians. And possibly, with judicious use of DNA replication, we could breed much better politicians than we have now.
My personal preference would be for an egg donation by Margaret Thatcher and a sperm donation from Winston Churchill. (Or make that Golda Meir and Nelson Mandela if you want more diversity.) To make sure that our political “chicks” are raised in a proper family environment, I’d clone Barbara Bush. And – since a two-parent household is optimal for child development – who better to father our flock than the father of our country, George Washington?
But as well-bred and as carefully reared as our newly hatched political poultry may be, we can’t just send them from their pens into the political wild. They would be easy prey for Washington wolves, Capitol Hill coyotes, House hyenas, Senate snakes, and Oval Office omnivores.
I think what we’ll have to do is gather everyone who ran for office in 2020, put them in a cage, place the cage just outside the chicken wire surrounding our new and improved fledgling politicians, and have Barbara and George tell them: “This is what a predator looks like!”