Pictured Above: Mayor Stubbs
Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons
Animals are wonderful. We play with them, cuddle with them, and admire their cuteness or majesty. Most pet lovers would even vouch that their pets are parts of the family just as much as the human members. However, could they even be able to be integrated into our political systems? For a couple small towns across the United States and in other countries, animals have been a part of government politics for years. Some animals have acted as symbols, and some have been products of lighthearted elections that gained national traction.
Animals have served as accidental symbols for political distaste. For example, in 2004, in Fairhope, Alabama, the citizens had become increasingly dissatisfied with the current mayoral politics of their town, so when one of the mayoral candidates put up a campaign poster near a community coffee shop, the community started to harangue the shop for endorsing a candidate (Davis, mentalfloss.com). To show their political agnosticism, the cafe put up campaign advertisements for Willie Bean Roscoe P. Coltrane, a yellow lab. The community took to the dog candidate, claiming that he was cleaning up politics. Sadly, Willie missed the deadline to be an official candidate for office, but the community rallied around the dog by buying products like t-shirts and yard signs. Willie Bean was not the only animal that helped clean up politics. In Brazil, a rhinoceros named Cacareco beat over 500 city council members in Sao Paulo (Macdonald, Reader’s Digest). He ended up becoming a symbol of the political dissatisfaction in Sao Paulo at the time. This event came to spawn the Rhinoceros Party of Canada, a political party created by a group of Canadian artists in 1963 (Docevski, Vintage News). The party acted on particularly silly platforms, including a petition to repeal the law of gravity, changing Canada’s currency to bubble gum (because one can inflate and deflate it easily), and listing a rhino named Cornelius the First as its party leader. Sadly, the party had to be disbanded in 1993 due to new restrictions of political parties. Allegedly, there is a new Rhinoceros party in Canada that lives on the domain neorhino.ca, but as of the time of this writing, the link is currently broken, including on Canada’s official party listing.
While animals in politics have been used as political systems, animals have also been in lighthearted elections in which animals have been elevated to serve in a public office. Perhaps the most famous animal to be elected would be Stubbs the cat, the former mayor of Talkeeta, Alaska (Davis, mentalfloss.com). When the townspeople were not in favor of any of the human candidates running for mayor, a handful of townspeople began to campaign for the cat and gathered the people together to write in his name on the ballot, and he actually won the election. The townspeople decided that having a feline mayor would be good for tourism, they decided to let Stubbs become the official mayor if Talkeeta, sparking internet fame. Sadly, however, after a 20 year service, Stubbs passed away peacefully in his sleep yesterday, July 23rd, 2017 (Taylor, KTUU.com). He will be dearly missed by residents and internet users alike. Luckily, there are other animal mayors going strong. In Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, a 3-year-old pitbull named Brynneth Pawltro has been elected. The Rabbit Hash Historical society runs elections and charges one dollar per vote (you are also allowed to vote as much as you want) (Iovine, aol.com). All of the funds go towards city improvements. For instance, the funds this year are going towards a general store that was burnt down in a fire. The townspeople figured that the town is too small to need a normal human mayor, so they have retained this election system since the 1990s.
While we do see animals as part of our family, rarely do we put them in high leadership positions; however, it is not outside the realm of possibility. Sometimes they have symbolized political discontent in cities. Perhaps it is attractive to elect an animal, a seemingly honest and incorruptible being to power. Sometimes, it is treated as a lighthearted gesture, whether to raise funds for a general store or to bring in tourism. No matter what, it highlights our love of animals. We find them endearing and pure and even love them enough to put them on a higher pedestal. While it may not be a good plan for politics as a whole, it is a treat to hear that animals too can be elected to office. It shows a bit of light and fun in a sometimes dark and foreboding world.