The Mad Hater of Wanderland

An allegorical commentary on the 2016 election, set in Wonderland and Oz.

When the Mad Hater, the Patriot Party’s presidential candidate, heard that Alice was stuck in the rabbit hole, he tweeted: “Which was too fat, her head or her hips?”

Sedate Patriots cringed at the slight, but the Mad Hater’s plebeian supporters roared with laughter. It was these plebeians, intoxicated by his rhetoric at a tea party, who assured his nomination.

The slur came after Alice endorsed the Egalitarian candidate. Dubbed the Evil Extremist of the East by the Mad Hater, the Egalitarian was a woman long associated with the Establishment. She was also a secretary in the Cabinet of the incumbent president, whom the Mad Hater especially despised.

“For eight long years,” the Mad Hater repeated at one rally after another, “in domestic matters we’ve been living in Neverland, not Wonderland. Under this president and his Evil Extremist adviser, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Their motto is ‘Never, never, never.’ There is no foreign policy. We’ve simply drifted from one crisis into another. They’ve made it Wanderland, not Wonderland.”

Repeatedly, the Mad Hater invoked his campaign slogan: “Make Wonderland a wondrous land again.” When asked how he would do it, his answers sounded like riddles which neither he nor anyone else could explain.

The Mad Hater had a long list of hatreds. Near the top of the list were the people from the Emerald City, which had fallen into chaos after the Wizard had been exposed as a fraud.

For decades, poverty-stricken Emerald City denizens had crossed illegally into Wonderland from Oz, on Wonderland’s southern border, taking jobs that otherwise would have gone to Wonderland’s plebeians. The Mad Hater declared that the Emerald City folk — pejoratively called “Greenies” — were criminals, and he promised that on his first day in office, he would sniff them out and deport every last one. “Greenies, go home!” became the cry of the plebeians. More conservative members of the party cringed again.

Then there were the refugees from the war in Humilia. The Mad Hater was as anti-Humilian as he was anti-Greenie. “Who knows which side they were on in the Humilian war? If they’d fought on the right side instead of fleeing, the war would be over, and they would have won. Send them back.”

The Mad Hater also hated the endless government regulatory agencies and their restrictions on corporations. The Mad Hater, as a shrewd businessman who knew how to make a buck and avoid paying taxes, found such regulations a hindrance. “My first day in office, those mind-boggling regulations have to go.” The plebeians cheered, but a few wondered if that meant airbags would no longer be required or if no one would monitor the content of packaged food.

The Evil Extremist of the East brought some questionable baggage to the campaign, too.

While in charge of smoke signals for the incumbent, she had used a private incinerator rather than the secure government smokestack to send messages that contained confidential information. By the time her inexplicable conduct was discovered, most of the messages had dissipated, leaving insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against her.

Relying on fringe scientists who predicted that within half a century there would not be enough air available, the Evil Extremist called for reducing the air pressure in tires by five pounds, a ban on air-filled balloons, and elimination of deep-breathing exercises.

The Mad Hater countered with a pipeline from the largely uninhabited northern latitudes, bringing jobs and air to all parts of Wonderland. Native Wonderlanders objected when they learned the pipeline would cross their reservations.

A month before the election, both candidates engaged in a debate. The Mad Hater subsequently complained that his tin can microphone he had had a faulty string attached and that that this had been a deliberate attempt to sabotage his performance. Organizers of the debate later conceded that the string was frayed.

As election day neared, many voters, questioning the integrity and temperament of one or both candidates, examined the platforms of the two minor parties in the race. The most likely candidate of the two turned them off, however, when, in reply to a question about Humilia, he answered that his wife never planted Humilias because they didn’t grow well in Wonderland.

Next month, the voters of Wonderland must choose. But faced with such options, many commentators worry that they might not be able to stop their magical country from wandering down the yellow brick road to ruin.

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1950s and ’60s, he led the fight to end racial and religious discrimination by fraternities and sororities. A lifelong socialist, his op-eds have appeared in California dailies for nearly 40 years. Contact him at reshaffer@cpp.edu.

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