How Many Cowboy Hats Does It Take to Win An Election?

One of the previous occupants of the house I now own did a shoddy job of passing along her change-of-address information when she vacated the premises.  What’s particularly frustrating about her failure to do so is that she isn’t even the previous owner of the house.  The chain of title has multiple links between the two of us.

I’m not sure whether it’s part of an overall scheme to drop off the “grid,” but suffice it to say that one of the side-effects of her lapse is that I receive all sorts of mail addressed to her, both important and trivial.  She was apparently a dedicated Democrat, because I also receive an abundance of pro-Dem literature at this time of year.  I normally treat it the same way that I do when I receive pro-GOP mailers, which is to say that I glance at it for half a second and drop it among the expired coupons and empty water bottles that populate my recycling bin.

Except that one recent mailer addressed to her actually caught my eye.

It was an anti-George-Allen item that hit the usual talking points about the former senator and his “extreme” views on issues related to women[1].  As anyone living in the United States (especially a swing state) during a major election cycle knows, this kind of rhetoric is nothing unusual.

What was unusual was the emphasis placed on a very specific aspect of George Allen’s persona in an attempt to rile voters.

Namely, the fact that he has worn a cowboy hat at some point in his adult life.

And three more cowboy hats on the other side!

I suppose I understand the theory behind this: Cowboys are reminiscent of the lawless Old West, or possibly reminders of traditional gender norms that scare the far left.  Either way, for every potential voter that might hold animus toward the idea of a “cowboy” type, there is another voter for whom cowboys conjure romanticized ideas about life on a ranch, or justice, or admirable masculinity, or rugged individualism.

I initially thought that the imagery of the ad was limited specifically to Allen, but a closer examination revealed something else.  Notice that Allen himself is pictured, twice, wearing a cowboy hat.  However, there are actually a total of five cowboy hats on the mailer: Two more appear in logos, and a third, oddly, appears in gigantic form, draped over the U. S. Capitol building.

Five cowboy hats!  Five!

I suppose that in our oversimplified political universe, propping up a totem intended to dismay like-minded voters is the next logical step in the progression.  I suppose the Romney camp will begin associating the president with a hammer and sickle, or Obama will begin using a jewel-encrusted money clip as a stand-in for Romney.  Paul Ryan, of course, will be a free weight.  Biden will be . . . I don’t know . . . a potato?

I know two things: One, regardless of the icons chosen, Gary Trudeau should get some royalties for the concept.  Two, I want to obtain a “Don’t Blame Me—I Voted For Cowboy Hat” bumper sticker ASAP.


[1] Keep in mind this is the partisan, political definition of “extreme,” which here means things such as advocating cutting funding to Planned Parenthood.
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