Now that the inane Iowa caucuses are over and the tail-chasing Boston Suburbs + Quebec Suburbs primary is ended, the rest of America can begin to choose between the candidates that our cornfield and flinty-faced betters have so expertly winnowed or story-lined for us. The primacy of IA and NH would be NBD if not for the fact that America’s candidates spend almost two years campaigning there; meanwhile, after a brief jaunt to Nevada and South Carolina, the totality of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia (to say nothing of American Samoa) will all vote on March 1 with about 19 days of campaigning for the lot of them. Our candidates make a show of mugging at all 99 of Iowa’s counties and making multiple visits to each New Hampshire Nothingberg. If I’m lucky I might get one meaningful rally in my state, like we did for Obama in 2008.
I was going to suggest wonky solutions for this absurdity. Perhaps a random drawing of “Plus One” states to go along with Iowa and New Hampshire so that at least four states get the two years of attention. Or, perchance a series of regional primaries with a different region going “first” each four yeats. But, the umpteenth visit to Ida County and the media’s smiley smile tallying of Dixville Notch’s first votes have left a groady corn and granite slime in my mouth.
Yep. It’s time to move this entire grotesque carnival to where it belongs. The state of my birth: New Jersey.
There are intellectual reasons for starting with Jeerz. It boasts some of the richest and poorest sections of the country, meaningful numbers of almost every race, religion, and ethnicity in the world, dense urban areas, sprawling suburbs, and more farmland and rural pockets than an outsider would expect. That’s all well and good for an NPR segment, but the real reason that the Marco Polos, Mike Hucketerbees, John Kasichs, and Jeb!utante Bushs (etc.) and all their media should have to spend two years slogging the Oranges, Amboys, and Cape Mays is far more pointed: It will be a colossal pain in the ass.
Firstly, ad buys will have to be in the ultra-expensive New York or Philly markets. Yet, those ads will have a hard time appealing to Jersey’s ideal of itself. Half the state likes the Knicks/Giants/Jets/Yanks/Mets the other likes the Sixers/Eagles/Phillies. Debating Devils/Flyers/Rangers WILL start fights. Rutgers is there for everyone, but no one cares about the Scarlet Knights. Jersey has no central city, landmark or place. Newark is the largest population center, but I admit to never setting foot in it until I was in my late 20s. I’ve still never been to Camden. Most of the times I was in Trenton it was a mistake. Despite being easy Blue nationally since ’92, Jersey functions like a set of city-states and fiefdoms; intensely local subcultures that sometimes enjoy each other, but ultimately have little affinity for one another. The candidates will have to squeeze votes out of this incoherent melange.
Being so close to NY and Philly, Jersey will be unimpressed by the candidates, their entourage, or The Media. Nope. No corny aw schucks smiles when John Kasich mentions that Toms River has a storied history in the Little League World Series or that John Updike wrote about Elizabeth once. Hillary will get no bounce for trotting out Carl Lewis (he’s from Jersey, look it up). No one will entertain Ben Carson. That said, the instant Jersey learns that Marco Polo has been supping at Brooklyn’s Peter Luger every night or Jeb!utante calls the “shore” the “coast” then watch out, because the only identity Jersey has is a negative reaction to the rest of country’s “Toxic Avenger” perception of the Garden State. We will rally and defend Jersey to the death. It’s an incomprehensible composite rock of “I Don’t Give a Fuck!” and “Fuck You!” and anyone that wants to be president had better figure out how the hell to navigate it.
The candidates will get stuck in traffic. A lot. The people will get bored of security inconveniences. Familiarity will breed contempt. Months before the first votes are cast, Jerseyans will find that one little, peculiar bit that gets under each candidate’s skin and, like a coven of mini-Howard Sterns, pick at it endlessly. One would think that Crisco Kremey would be adapted to these environs and be favored in his home state, yet I suspect that he would merciless trolling for being shitty at his day job. I Don’t Give a Fuck so Fuck You!
I want to see Mike Hucksterbee chum up to a dad with three kids at the Kendall Park roller rink and have the guy tell Huck to choke on his own vomit and die, and then go back to playing Buck Hunt.
I want to see overly tan women giggle and point at Jeb!utante Bush while he is wearing his creepy WASP shorts at the Shore and then have a guido laugh in his face.
I want to see Bernie face down a Libertarian heckler with aspbergers syndrome and a six figure salary from Bristol Meyers Squibb in a town hall in West Windsor.
I want to see Hillary “connect” over hoagie orders.
I want to see a beer bellied slob with half-chewed pizza in his mouth get into an Alpha contest with Mr. T on the Point Pleasant board walk.
I want to see the real life incarnation of Randall from “Clerks” make Marco Polo cry.
I want The Media to get grouchier and grouchier about the whole damn thing. New York and DC, so close and yet so far!
Finally, mercifully, the ordeal will end. Jersey will be sick of all you alls stupid, vapid speeches and boot slurping handlers. The candidates will be seething beneath false saber-tooth smiles, gamely thanking the volunteers and ready to book the hell out of here.
Thus, Jersey and The Election will part ways. Both reminiscing over scores of slights, brows furrowed, thinking about waving a gigantic stadium-style foamy hand with its middle-finger jacked up in each others’ face. I mean really, could anything be more American?
You Got A Problem With That!