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Darrell Huckaby: Forget Big Bird, Popeye has what it takes for political success

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Poor old Big Bird. He has become a talking point in the soon-to-be-over presidential campaign and the big fellow doesn't like it one bit. The Sesame Street gang has formally asked both candidates to lay off the references to all of them as the race goes down to the wire.

Good for them. Why would Elmo and Oscar the Grouch and Bert and Ernie want to be a pawn in what is becoming an increasingly bitter campaign season?

I didn't grow up with Big Bird or Mr. Rogers, but my kids did. Although they were more enthusiastic about all things Disney, I often sat on the living room floor with them, watching the shenanigans of Bert and Ernie and Mr. Snuffleupagus.

My oldest child was a big fan of Elmo and I still search the toy stores at Christmas trying to find her his latest tickle-me item. It's a daddy thing. I'm sure most of you understand.

So Big Bird -- who is 8 feet, 2 inches tall, by the way, in case you ever find yourself in a trivia contest -- is off-limits for the next two weeks. Not to worry. The candidates will find plenty more issues to exaggerate and tell lies and half-truths about.

The flap over Big Bird reminded me of the children's shows I watched growing up. I began to wonder why none of them were ever used to champion political causes. Take Popeye the Sailor. I used to watch "The Popeye Club" every afternoon and while ooey-gooey and the spoon-flip game were fun, it was the cartoons that kept me coming back to the couch.

If you aren't familiar with the spinach-chomping sailor, his girlfriend Olive Oyl and his nemesis Bluto -- sometimes called Brutus -- you really had an underprivileged childhood.

Popeye and his friends would make perfect fall guys for the presidential politics of today -- for either side. Let's say, for instance, that you believed in Naval supremacy. Dress Popeye up in his best uniform, complete with anchor tattoos, and send him on a speaking tour to raise money for the Department of the Navy. Or let's say you are on the other side of the political aisle and determined to downsize the Navy. You can talk about the new, specialized armed forces and talk about the power of a streamlined military and show old clips of Popeye defeating an entire fleet of enemy ships -- after he's had his spinach, of course.

Speaking of which, Popeye would be a perfect shill for a Department of Agriculture pitch. He's strong to the finish when he eats his spinach. Think of all the subsidies Congress could pass on behalf of the spinach industry with Popeye in their corner. I even ate canned spinach for a while as a kid because I was convinced my biceps would expand and I could beat up any little linthead who happened to pick on me. I gave up on it after Rosemary Robertson beat me up in the cloak room and smashed an ice cream sandwich in my face, though.

Medicare is a big issue in the current campaign. Popeye's daddy, Poop Deck Pappy, would be the perfect person to pitch Medicare. He was eternally 99 years old in the cartoons and is certainly in need of good health coverage, despite his excellent Naval pension.

There was J. Wellington Wimpy, too. What a grand example he would be for a plethora of government programs. Wimpy, you may recall, was Popeye's well-educated, soft-spoken, rotund friend who was always going around saying, "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

He could be in Michelle Obama's anti-obesity ads. They could show the mayor of New York City refusing to supersize Wimpy's Coke at a NYC hamburger stand. Or they could show him proudly holding his EBT card, so he won't have to go around begging for burger money again.

And let's not forget about Olive Oyl. She would make a great case study for modern woman, because she had that little kid, Swee' Pea, but Popeye never made an honest woman out of her by tying the matrimonial knot, so something was fishy about all that and I am sure she could have used all sorts of help from the government and each party could claim that they were the only ones who could give her what she needs.

And Brutus, given his character, would be happy to play the role of a terrorist or represent Iran or North Korea or China. So there you go. Forget Big Bird. Either party could have run its entire campaign using Popeye cartoons.

My suggestion comes too late for this time around, but in 2016, Popeye's your guy. He's strong to the finish, which is more than I can say for this year's cast of political characters.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.