Politics & Other Mistakes: The biggest gags (both kinds) of 2022

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The time has come when our inboxes, airwaves and mailboxes will no longer be filled with the stupid and evil detritus of campaign advertising. Once again, there’ll be room for the stupid and evil detritus of Nigerian princes, phony cancer cures and MyPillow ads.

But this political season can’t fade away without honoring those whose stunning lapses of judgment have once again demonstrated that it’s possible to be shockingly original while still qualifying as a clunkhead.

To that end, here are the 2022 Gaggie Awards for campaign ineptitude. The Gaggies are named after Hayes Gahagan, an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate back in 1978, who still gets credit for holding the most unusual press conference in Maine political history. Gahagan summoned reporters to announce that persons unknown had implanted subliminal images of female genitalia in the hairline of his campaign photos. Even though he provided enlargements of the alleged vaginas, most observers remained skeptical, and the vast majority of voters found a better candidate to support. Or better pornography.

Al DiamonIn that spirit, here are this year’s Gaggie Award winners.

The Transcendence in Journalism trophy goes to the Lewiston Sun Journal for its October 11 profile of an independent state Senate candidate identified as “Douglas A. Adams.” The guy who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? Isn’t he dead? Wasn’t his middle initial N? Isn’t this candidate’s real name Douglas Thomas? And did the Sun Journal run a correction? The answers: no, yes, yes, yes and no.

The newspaper’s trophy is inscribed with this quote from the real Douglas Adams: “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

The runner-up in the journalism category is Valerie Yurk of Roll Call for her October posting about the threat Maine’s lobster industry poses to right whales. According to Yurk, “Environmentalists blame the lobstermen’s use of pots, traps and gillnets” for the whales’ decline. Apparently, no one told her that pots and traps are the same thing, and catching lobsters with gillnets would be nearly impossible and completely illegal.

Her trophy reads, “You’re not from around here, are ya?”

The Gaggie for Most Unassuming Campaign Slogan goes to Republican state House candidate Rachel Henderson of Rumford. Henderson ran a newspaper ad that proclaimed, “The state of Maine is better with me, than without me.” To put that more succinctly, “I’m just a notch above mediocre.”

That’s enough to stand out in Augusta.

The Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America wins the Gaggie inscribed, “Maybe we should have given this idea more thought before we let our idealism run roughshod over reality.” The DSA collected enough signatures to put a question on the Portland ballot restricting cruise ships to disgorging no more than 1,000 passengers a day. It didn’t occur to them that because cruise ships would refuse to stop in Portland if that restriction were imposed, the proposed ordinance would cost dozens of mostly union jobs of longshoremen and harbor pilots. The DSA was forced to campaign against its own ballot question.

Will it also reassess its continuing campaign to govern the city by referendum? Don’t be silly.

The Gaggie Awards committee (me) was all set to bestow our final plaque on GOP 1st Congressional District candidate Ed Thelander for embracing ridiculous conspiracy theories, such as school districts providing litter boxes for students who identify as cats. Thelander later admitted he was bamboozled. Dumb rookie mistake. Hardly worth memorializing.

The same can’t be said for his opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who’s been in Congress since Maine split from Massachusetts. Pingree and a bunch of her liberal House colleagues signed a letter calling on the Biden administration to begin direct talks with Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Apparently, it didn’t occur to Pingree and her progressive pals that such a move would stab the Ukrainians in the back.

Once that was pointed out, Pingree withdrew her support for the letter and pledged to personally deliver all the bombs she could carry to the frontlines. Still, she deserves the Gaggie inscribed, “Leave foreign policy to those with a functioning nervous system above the neck.”

Test your gag reflex by emailing [email protected].

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