Sunday, November 09, 2008

Politics and the Donner Party

I hate politics, so it's a relief to get the election over with. What's really interesting is how the Donner Party kept popping up in the commentary.

This is nothing new; for instance, in 1998, one commentator wrote, "... even the staunchest defenders of the GOP are wondering how much progress there is in moving from the Republican to the 'Donner' party," and in 2005 another wrote, "Howard Dean is taking over the bloody reins from Terry McAuliffe, who had a hand in turning the Democrats into politics' answer to the Donner-party crossing." The 2008 election, however, has sprouted a bumper crop.

In February 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, a building with several ties to an earlier president from the same state. Chicago Tribune writer Patrick T. Reardon described the senator as "wrapping himself in the mystique of Abraham Lincoln," and noted that the site has "less attractive" associations. Among other examples, he cited a nearby plaque honoring the departure of the ill-fated Donner Party in April 1846.

In March 2008, columnist Timothy Egan's Op-Ed article in the New York Times, "Donner Party Democrats," presented an extended analogy of the political process, ending, "These modern Dems press on, tearing into each other, crawling to get to the summit, still five months away... They are now ravenous with hunger, and it is starting to show. "

And then there was Jay Leno's quip on October 31: "It was on this day in 1846 that the Donner Party left for California. You know what happened there. Everything went wrong. They wound up eating each other.
Kind of like what's going on in the McCain campaign right now." (Ooops, Jay-- it was the same day in 1846 that the Donner Party got bogged down in the snow -- which, under the circumstances, is an even more apt analogy.)

Obviously, this is an equal opportunity analogy -- it can describe Democrats and Republicans -- but the people at this site have come up with the most unusual, if not tasteful, spin on the Donner Party and politics.

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