Elections

Friday A/V Club: Popeye, Bluto, Daffy Duck, Snoopy, and Betty Boop Run for President

Donald Trump isn't the first cartoon character to make a bid for the White House.

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Has there ever been a more cynical campaign than the presidential race of 1956? To judge from this documentary, neither candidate took a stand for principle or for sound public policy; instead Popeye, nominee of the Spinach Party, promised free ice cream, while Bluto, of the Blutocratic Party, offered free cigars. The election eventually came down to just one vote—Olive Oyl's—and the candidates competed for her support by doing her work for her. I don't know how exactly anyone knew in advance that she was going to cast the deciding ballot; the Constitution, clearly, had been thrown out the window.

Things were different when Daffy Duck tried to run for president. His Trumpish platform of banning rabbits hit a snag when Bugs Bunny explained the Constitution's limits on presidential power. Even after Daffy managed to get elected to Congress instead, he was hemmed in by constitutional restraints. It's all in this film from 2004, which also includes a brief discussion of the protections to be found in the Fourth Amendment:

Snoopy's successful bid for the White House—not to be confused with his later service as head beagle—offers a lesson in America's openness to new religious movements. We're used to seeing Christian candidates claim that God asked them to run for office; Snoopy instead obeyed a message from the Great Pumpkin. Or so it says in this 1968 report from the Royal Guardsmen, who pretty much owned the "novelty songs about Snoopy" genre back in the '60s. As in the Popeye/Bluto race, Snoopy's victory came down to a single vote—and a puzzling one, as I'm pretty sure this voter was actually a citizen of Germany:

The country could have gotten rid of the presidency altogether back in 1932, if Americans had backed the WavyGravyesque candidacy of Mr. Nobody, depicted in the last of our films. But instead they preferred Betty Boop, whose elaborate platform included trollies that pick you up at your second-story window and privacy for dogs who pee in public. Worthy causes, no doubt, but I can't help imagining the road not taken.

(There was a "Linda Lovelace for President" movie too, but I'll let you Google that yourselves. For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)