Where’s the (Political) Beef?

Candidates like to toss “red meat” to their party’s base

Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

My first word wasn’t Mama or Dada. It was meat. My second word was mo. From my high chair, I’d pound my spoon and yell, “Mo meat!”

My arteries are likely as congested as town hall yard on primary day. Can’t help it. I love meat. And NH’s first-in-the-nation primary status.

We’re gearing up — bombarded with radio, Internet and good old snail mail campaigning since July. Most of us have seen, shaken hands with, given advice to and heckled several candidates. Pick up the phone in the evening and the person on the other end launches into a diatribe about how her candidate is prime rib and the others are chuck.

Sincere pollsters want to know how likely I am to vote and who I’m likely to vote for. Evidently my one vote could change the course of history.

In the midst of the excitement, I hear — from several sources — about a restaurant not far from home that serves the best meat ever. This meat is so good, folks will wait an hour in line and submit to a Secret Service frisking just to sink their teeth in. These burgers, they say, are well-seasoned, juicy, thick, but proportionate to the bun, with tantalizing add-ons, from blue cheese to roasted garbanzos.

What could I do? I stood in line, bellied up to the bar, and before I could say “Mo meat,” received a plate resplendent with buttered bun topped with a slightly charred burger both thick and wide, crowned with tomato, onion, and four fried orbs of shredded buffalo chicken and cream cheese. That’s right — I ordered the burger with rooster balls. 

It was too big for my mouth, even after my jaw unhinged. So I scraped off the rooster balls for nibbling between burger bites.

It was a good burger, but it did not live up to the hype. What burger could?

It’s the greatest-movie-ever conundrum. Go to a movie everybody raves about and it’s never as you expect. You order a burger medium rare and it comes out medium. It’s not awful. No cause for impeachment. It’s just not all you’d hoped for.

When my daughter was 5 we took her to Disney World on the train. She liked the train ride. She was awful excited to be going to the happiest place on earth. But at the end of the vacation, she summarized her experience this way: “Disney World’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

And so, as we hurtle down the track toward our Republican and Democratic primaries, as New Hampshire prepares to school the nation on who’s in contention and who ain’t, I can’t help but feel sorry for the intrepid candidates who put their names on the ballots, their reputations on the line, and who’ve worked their buns off for our votes.  

One of you will become President of the United States. We will elect you with the highest and most unreasonable expectations. You will become the burger to end all burgers, with or without rooster balls.

Good luck with that. 


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