California has a state insect, the Dog-Face Butterfly.
Minnesota has a state bird, the Common Loon.
"Eureka!" shout Californians when asked their state motto.
And when folks from Minneapolis or St. Paul are overcome by the thought of all those woods and lakes, they burst into the state song, "Hail! Minnesota."
All of which should put you in the mood for the election and the inevitable party as the returns roll in. After heaven knows how many months of watching the transplanted Californian and the man from Minnesota vie for the presidency, election night should be a time of high drama.
It's not and we all know why.
Those wicked commentators with their wicked computers have spoiled the fun. Just as you pop the first cheese puff into your mouth, you're being assured that it's all over.
Oh for the good old days when news trickled in by messengers on horseback and the country could spend weeks not knowing who was elected. Now that was tension.
And whatever happened to the spice of stolen elections, as one candidate accused the other of stuffing ballot boxes or raising entire cemeteries from the dead and marching them to the polls to vote? The Kennedy-Nixon contest was the last time Americans had the fun of arguing about that, but in the good old days Indiana was stolen as often as a Brinks' payroll. In Benjamin Harrison's 1888 campaign, one of his people issued a circular instructing the Indiana workers to "divide the floaters into blocks of five, and put a trusted man with the necessary funds in charge of the five, and make him responsible that none get away, and that all vote our ticket."
Another of Harrison's people would say afterward that he and his helpers were near "the gates of the penitentiary" for the methods they used to get their man into office.
Since the cliffhanging election and the stolen election seem to have gone the way of the five-cent cigar, the host/ess hoping for an evening of excitement must provide it. One way to turn what has become a non-event for TV watchers into a more enjoyable evening is to pass out Olympic-style score cards and let your guests rate the networks, with categories for Most Inane Remarks, Earliest Announcement of the Winner, Most Often Repeated Analysis, Most Bizarre Outside Expert, Silliest Interview With Member of a Candidate's Family, etc. Get guests who have portable TV sets to bring them and you can rate all the commentators at once.
Ask guests to bring pumpkins carved to look like one or the other of the candidates. Ronald O'Lanterns and Fritz O'Lanterns can light up the room while guests vote on the most effective pumpkin head. And while we're lingering over Halloween, ask guests to come dressed as a famous political figure -- Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower.
Or ask them to wear a costume representing some famous political scandal or event -- Watergate, Teapot Dome, Cleveland's illegitimate child or Warren Harding's, the Bay of Pigs or the Credit Mobilier. You'll have a guessing game to while away the hours waiting for western polls to close.
Watch the election returns while playing a trivia game, except that no matter what color the player lands on he or she must answer the political category.
Or make up your own trivia game, with everyone bringing five political questions to the party. The winner should be encouraged to run for office.
Ask each guest to bring a memento from an earlier presidential campaign: campaign buttons, posters, bumper stickers, a scarf commemorating a speech in Sioux Falls. During the dull moments, hold an on-the-spot auction -- proceeds to pay off the deficit of a losing candidate who most moves the hearts of the assembled group.
Let the food you serve show where your heart is. California is easy and you can be up-market with California caviar and vintage wines or ease the budget with Gallo Hearty Burgundy and diet delight vegetables. Minnesota may not be quite as food-centered, but it has something that Lotus Land lacks: wild rice. Stuff birds (quail if you can afford it, turkey if not) with wild rice to show that you're willing to let the Democrats put the bite on you.
Ask everyone to pick cabinet members for the winning candidate: Bunker Hunt for secretary of the Treasury, Clint Eastwood for secretary of Defense, Jane Fonda for the Department of Energy. Think of all the people they might overlook. Or if you prefer to be serious, let everyone write down their list of cabinet members. Kick in a dollar or two and, when the president-elect announces his cabinet, the guest who made the most right choices gets to collect the pot.
And, thanks to Ronald Reagan's previous profession, there is always one way to keep the evening from sagging. Rent a movie starring the president. The choice -- "Bedtime for Bonzo" or something more heroic in tone -- will show which side you're on.