The big difference was that in the rodeo, bull riders only have to stay on their bull for eight seconds.
According to my official program from the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, better known as the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, “In a successful ride, half of the points are given to the rider and half to the bull.”
That would be a more interesting way to determine who won the New Hampshire primary. Under the current system, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came in first with 25.8 percent of the vote. But if we used the also-give-points-to-the-bull approach and factored in Sanders’s many improbable promises, he would have carried New Hampshire by 125.8 percent.
Another difference between the two events was that President Trump did not land in the middle of the Fort Worth proceedings and distract participants by convening 12,000 supporters and telling them, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Democratic presidential candidates.”
Otherwise, the primary and the rodeo were comparable experiences. The rodeo began with a prayer. The primary began with a number of candidates who didn’t have one.
A strong smell pervaded both contests. Although in one case it could be washed out of your clothes the next day.
Many “Western” cliches turned out to be more applicable to the primary than to the rodeo:
“Don’t take your guns to town” (without a mandatory background check before purchase)
“Riding off into the sunset”
“Time to get out of Dodge”
“Which way did they go?” (to South Carolina and Nevada)
A popular rodeo attraction is the barrel race, much like the pork-barrel race of practical politicking. Both require skill at hoofing it around obstacles (physical or ethical). Rodeo barrels, however, are acknowledged to be empty.
Rodeo clowns serve an important purpose, distracting angry, dangerous bulls and keeping dismounted riders safe. Various clowns were entered in the primary, too. Their function was not as well defined. Maybe they were there to distract angry, dangerous journalists. In which case Mike Bloomberg should have run in New Hampshire. Perhaps some antics from Marianne Williamson (94 votes) could have kept Bloomberg safe after an old recording of his stop-and-frisk comments surfaced.
I was surprised in Fort Worth to see that a running calf can be caught by a rider in as little as two seconds of roping. But I was equally surprised in New Hampshire to see that Joe Biden — who’s been running for office for 51 years — could be thrown for a loop in a mere 12 hours of voting. (And I don’t think anyone did so badly in the rodeo that they left Texas before their score was announced.)
The primary campaign events were free. But rodeo tickets cost only about $30. And once you’d bought your ticket, you were free and clear — the ticket price was the same even if your favorite rodeo contestant turned out to be a big winner. If your favorite Democratic primary contestant turned out to be a big winner, you could be paying for that with higher taxes for years.
Yet, in contrast to the rodeo, the primary comprises hundreds of events in scores of locations — at which the candidate arrives an hour late. Venues vary from too small to get into to too large to escape. The temperature is freezing, the wind is howling, the slush is up to your ankles. And that’s when you’re indoors.
The rodeo takes place under one roof, on schedule, in a climate-controlled arena.
Furthermore, while New Hampshire, where I live, is very small compared with Texas, the Granite State has a surprisingly Wild West highway system. That is, New Hampshire’s roads are basically wandering cow paths leading to nowhere. Getting from an Amy Klobuchar event in Wolfeboro to a Pete Buttigieg town hall in Keene is worse than driving a thousand head of longhorns along the Chisholm Trail and with no place to park when you get there. The rodeo has ample parking, and Fort Worth is centrally located.
I suggest that in 2024 the Fort Worth rodeo and the New Hampshire Democratic primary change places. The rodeo will be just as exciting. New Hampshire’s potholes, frost heaves and icy patches offer challenges equal to any bucking bronco or raging bull. Yes, for the New Hampshire electorate, the 1,851-mile drive to the voting booth will be . . . about the same as trying to get from Wolfeboro to Keene. The Democratic primary turnout was only 296,077. There are 1,359,711 people in the state. And exactly 1,359,711 of us would rather be in Texas this time of year. (Did I mention that the rodeo serves beer?)