While the rest of America has its eyes on the New Hampshire primary, something much more thrilling is happening here in Louisiana. It’s Mardi Gras!
Louisiana famously goes its own way in many things. So while everyone else votes on Tuesday and parties on Saturday, we’re partying on Tuesday and we’ll vote on Saturday. That will come next month.
Louisiana has never had much of a footprint in presidential politics. Our only president, Zachary Taylor, wasn’t really from here and was so uninterested in politics that he had never voted. His presidency was cut short when he died after a little more than a year in office. Huey P. Long wrote a book called “My First Days in the White House,” but it wasn’t published until after he had been gunned down in 1935. And then there’s Bobby Jindal.
But we’re No. 1 when it comes to Mardi Gras. Folks in Mobile, Alabama, like to claim they got there first, and perhaps they did. But they’re the Winklevoss twins, and we’re Mark Zuckerberg.
In different ways, elections and Carnival both reflect how we feel about ourselves as a community. Except Carnival is more fun.
Every four years, our nation picks a president by looking in the mirror and determining how we want to change. Carnival is also about looking in the mirror, but we ponder our image and turn it into parody.
The leaders we pick in our elections preside 365 days a year, so there’s plenty of opportunity for them to do harm. Carnival royalty only lasts a day, so there’s not much potential for damage.
Presidential elections only come around every four years, and that’s a good thing because they’re exhausting. Carnival comes around every winter. It’s exhausting, too, but it’s so much fun that we wouldn’t think of waiting until 2020 before we do it again.
Louisiana won’t get its say in the presidential derby until March 5, and by then, about a third of the states will have spoken. Even American Samoa is ahead of us. So the pickings could be slim.
Thankfully, Mardi Gras comes early this year. The big presidential field gives our floatmakers and maskers more targets of opportunity. Still, the roster is already shrinking. Hopefully, nobody built a float lampooning Martin O’Malley or Rand Paul.