If you think Parson Anderson's smiling declaration of an independent candicacy brought forth rejoicing from the great man's supporters Tuesday, guess again. On Scandinavian furniture all across America, fingernails dug into cheap leather.
Hammacher Schlemmer catalogs were left open and unread. Cups of French-roast decaffeinated coffee (decaffeinated by the "Swiss process") were overturned. On college campuses, in suburbs swarming with Volvos, in condos where The New Yorker is pounced upon and where Common Cause, Inc., has replaced the Prebyterian Church, a grisly tension mounted. Anxiety like this had not been felt since the dark and delicious days of Watergate. While our Candidate of Ideas was offering himself up to the republic, one thought gained ascendancy in the minds of all Andersonians: "The Democratic National Committee is going to keep him off the ballot!" An atrocity! A catastophe! John Anderson -- loser of primaries, winner of headlines and current Messiah for the forces of organized Goody-Goodyism -- was about to be unhorsed by the Clubhouse pols. Would the patrons of good causes and good breeding allow this to happen? I join with all the intellectuals of Beverly Hills in beseeching them to struggle against this renascent Tammanyism.
In every state where Parson Anderson is banned from the ballot, the citizenry is being denied a fundamental American right: the right to see with one's own eyes the crazed spectacle of a grown man sweating, heaving, smiling, scowling and prevaricating his way to the presidency. Whether it is Parson Anderson's right to be on every state's ballot I leave to the retired ambulance chasers who now man our illustrious judiciary. But as a student of the learned Holmes and Frankfurter, I say with confidence that every taxpaying American has an inalienable right to witness all the major presidential candidates in the flesh.
Admittedly, the constitutional views of men like Holmes and Frankfurter are not fashionable. Holmes and Frankfurter thought citizens were entitled to equal opportunity without regard to their physical appearance, a belief brought to wreck by today's affirmative action judgements, which base opportunity primarily on one's physical appearance. They thought, too, that the fruits of a man's labor were his own, not the government's, as is the view of Sen. Kennedy and like-minded eminences. Still, I am reasonably confident that Parson Anderson's name will appear on the ballot in most states, and he and his supporters should provide ample entertainment for the most demanding wits. The zany Illinoisan is an amusing man, but his supporters are not to be sniffed at. They are capable of a swell show, too.
What I find most amusing about them in their infinite capacity for dudgeon and the stupefying speed with which their anger is excited. Merely suggest a tax cut and they heat up. Speak of expanding individual liberty or puckishly admire the works of General Motors, and they stuggle against the urge to shout. Better yet, arrive in their midst wearing a "Nuke the Whales" tee shirt. Even Quakers become unfriendly at this.
My guess is that the most rampant partisans for the good parson will be found among the deans of women's colleges. As editor of an admittedly racy intellectual review, I am often the recipient of terse letters from these high-minded patrollers of learning wherein I am notified: "Dear Mr. Tyrell, The young ladies of our institution do not care to receive your American Spectator." I always reply amiably: "Dear Madam, I have sent your name to the FBI." Which reminds me of another virtue of the true-blend Andersonians -- to wit, they worry a lot.
How large is the Anderson constituency? Pollsters are claiming something like one-fifth of the voters. I doubt this. My barber sells bumper stickers, two of which read: "Caution: I Speed Up for Small Animals" and "Have You Slugged Your Kid Today?" He informs me that only 5 percent of his customers spy these slogans and declare him "sick." From this, I should judge that Anderson's vote will be in the neighborhood of 10 percent this fall, but it will abe an angry and worried 10 percent.
Now this is not to say that everything angers and worries the true-blue Andersonian; some things please him quite a lot -- namely, himself. Often he has done well either in or by his profession. He has thought all the proper thoughts, felt all the seemly sentiments and supported progressive candidates. He will not lower his self-esteen by voting with the majority in this election. His vote this year will be an expression of good taste, as always.