When I lived in New Orleans some years back I awaited Mardi Gras with a fever, and this past week I returned for a few days of parades, music in the streets, and the finest food on the planet. I need this now and then like Frankenstein needs an date with the power plant, and my wife needs to see what’s happening on The Bachelor.
The unhinged joy of Carnival is an annual reminder of how to be happy, how brightly colored drinks can kick the teeth out of your head, and how some people really should keep their clothes on ... at least in the daylight.
But most of all, it makes people remember what it is like to have fun. Real fun. The kind that makes everyone think he or she is a good dancer, compels strangers to hug, and convinces everyone that an armload of cheap plastic beads is worth more than a Maserati full of Cristal.
This is why I think next year, as every presidential campaign is raging (and they will be, trust me) each candidate should take a couple of days to go to the Mardi Gras.
Hear me out. Think of many recent campaigns and ask yourself “What have they been marked by?” (Go ahead. Do it. It will totally freak out the other people on the train!) The answer: Partisan bitterness, vicious attacks, and snarky comebacks. Their actual campaign slogans could be “send in the frowns.” And yet, while this may make the strategists feel tough, whom do we elect? Candidates who make us feel good.
Ronald Reagan told excellent jokes. Bill Clinton had a warm smile. Barack Obama was all hope and change. And they seemed happy. And that made many Americans feel optimistic. And that’s how you get elected these days.
True, New Orleans is not like any other city and going there for a break during a tough election may seem odd. But amid the flying beads, bras, and bourbon just might be the secret to winning the White House ... or to not caring so much if you lose.
Tom Foreman is a political correspondent for CNN.