Jimmy Carter permanently lost one liberal Democrat's vote two years ago. It was election night and she had planned a large party to watch the returns.
"It was the worst party I've ever given, and I planned it so carefully. I asked people to come around 8 o'clock, assuming they'd stay until midnight. There were three TV sets in different rooms, each tuned to a different network. Since people would be wandering from room to room, I planned food they could carry in their hands. And I staggered the servings so there would be hot food available all through the evening. There's always some diehard who wouldn't dream of eating until they announce the figures on voter turnout in Honolulu.
"I hollowed out potato skins and stuffed them with different fillings. You can make them in advance and heat them up. If you're feeling unimaginative, see the October issue of Gourmet for ideas on what to stuff them with.
"I thought of everything. Except . . .
"Jimmy Carter conceded before my first guest arrived. How can you have an election-night party when the election is already over? All over the country, the liberals were losing, and I was left with a room full of mourning Democrats. I had invited two Republicans, which was a mistake. They were obnoxiously happy and couldn't resist gloating. My guests were so depressed, everyone left early. Two hours after the first person arrived, the last one left.
"There I was with piles of uneaten food and four years of Republicans."
One must always expect the unexpected. There is no guarantee that an election-night party will provide many happy returns, so the party giver must be ready to cope if the favored candidates fall flat on their faces.
Our hostess might have turned a disastrous evening into a memorable one if, when Carter conceded, she had leapt to the center of the room and urged her guests to follow the practice adopted by at least one English town at the end of the 18th century:
"On the election of a bailiff, the inhabitants assemble in the principle streets to throw cabbage-stalks at each other. The town-house bell gives the signal for the affray. This is called lawless hour. This done (for it lasts an hour) the bailiff-elect and corporation, in their robes, preceded by drums and fifes -- visit the old and new bailiff, constables, etc., etc., attended by the mob. In the meantime, the most respectable families in the neighborhood are invited to meet and fling apples at them on their entrance. I have known 40 pots of apples expended at one house. "From John Brand's Popular Antiquities (1883), Gentleman's Magazine, 1790, London.
Just think how much happier a room full of lost liberals would have felt if they had been able to pelt each other (and, of course, the Republicans) with cabbage stalks and apples. It would have relieved much of their anger and disappointment. Cabbage stalks may be difficult to find unless you are a gardener, but apples certainly are within the reach of all.
Some other less rowdy ways to pick up a party after your candidates have lost:
* Provide an opposition dart board for sore losers. Call the opposing candidate's office and request a black and white photograph. Then contact one of the photo developing stores that turn photographs into posters. Mount the candidate poster on cork board, hang it on the wall and hand around darts. Twenty-five points if you hit the nose, 10 for an ear.
* Buy a pinata and stuff it with photographs and slogans that are insulting to the opposition. Since people are blindfolded, given a stick and encouraged to take hearty thwacks at where they think the pin ata should be, this is also a good way of releasing frustration.
* Contact one of the places still apt to be piled high with pumpkins after Halloween and see if they'll give you a special left-over jack o' lantern price. Then provide your guests with newspapers, knives and pumpkins for a Carve-Up-the-Candidate contest. The person whose pumpkin most resembles the opposition candidate wins a prize.
Prepare a toast to famous losers.
* When there is no doubt that your candidate has lost, break out bottles of champagne, note pads and pencils and announce a Sweet Revenge contest. Ask everyone to think up a legal but wicked plot to catch out the winning candidate. The winner gets a copy ofThe Prince.