A Presidential Candidate by Mark Twain, 1879
The magic trick:
Turning an American institution on its head with comedy
Happy Election Day! Maybe ‘happy’ isn’t the right word. I can’t imagine anyone has enjoyed this campaign season, regardless of your personal politics. It’s been pretty difficult to retain your faith in this here thing we call the United States. But hey, at least we still have our collective sense of humor, right? At least we can still laugh at a Mark Twain story.
“A Presidential Candidate” lays out its (hilarious) premise from the start – and boy is it sure relevant today 137 years later. Don’t wait for a congressional committee to look into my past, the narrator says, I’ll just tell you right now all the bad things I’ve done. Wouldn’t that have added some spice to the 2016 election?
Well, of course, in typical Twain form, this takes an American institution and subverts it, thus pointing out the absurdity of the way we do things. All with laughs. And that’s quite a trick on Twain’s part. Go vote!
I have pretty much made up my mind to run for President. What the country wants is a candidate who cannot be injured by investigation of his past history, so that the enemies of the party will be unable to rake up anything against him that nobody ever heard of before. If you know the worst about a candidate, to begin with, every attempt to spring things on him will be checkmated. Now I am going to enter the field with an open record. I am going to own up in advance to all the wickedness I have done, and if any Congressional committee is disposed to prowl around my biography in the hope of discovering any dark and deadly deed that I have secreted, why—let it prowl.