Election Day Decisions

November 4th, 2008 | Posted in MAD Magazine

After what only seems like a forever filled with the usual partisan ugliness associated with a U.S. presidential election, today has finally arrived and by tomorrow morning we will know who will lead the United States for the next four years…

…or will we?

The photo above is of the famous gaffe in the November 3rd, 1948 issue of the Chicago Tribune, where they jumped the gun and declared Thomas E. Dewey the winner of the election over Harry S. Truman. It’s always been a dilemma for printed periodicals to decide at what point they should “call” an election and therefore get the story to press as soon as possible.

Over on his excellent blog “News From ME“, Mark Evanier writes that last week cartoonist Garry Trudeau had already drawn his “Doonesbury” strips for this week and turned them in presuming a Barack Obama victory. Mark rightly points out that doing so is a win-win either way. If Trudeau’s right, well, he’s right. If he’s wrong and John McCain wins, well, it’s a pop culture faux pas that is both funny and notable (probably followed by a “dream” explanation and a rude awaking). Mark also recalls the famous MAD issue #60 from 1961 that went to press just days before the election where they printed one cover showing John F. Kennedy as the winner and one with Richard M. Nixon, and then printed the issue with two “front covers” one upside down on the “back” and half the issue printed upside down after it, therefore rendering the issue both “right” and “wrong” in equal measure:

I have another MAD election story to tell that is even more bizarre.

In October of 2000 MAD was putting together it’s annual “MAD 20 People, Events and Things” issue and I was assigned the obligatory page making fun of the presidential election of that year, George W. Bush versus Al Gore. The issue was going to press on Nov. 8th, the day after the election. Not knowing who was going to win, I was asked to do two versions of the image, one with Bush being sworn in and one with Gore, showing the appropriate despondent other candidate and new first lady as well. Here were the images I did:

Bush Wins

Gore Wins

Since the print date was so close, they editors actually turned in both pages to the printer and were going to literally call them up on the 8th and tell them which to run. I remember The Lovely Anna and I were vacationing in Hawaii at the time of the election (you have to love absentee voting), and on the 8th I got up and checked the internet to see which of my illustrations would run in MAD.

… of course there was no winner. Not the next day, or the next, or the next. Thanks to “hanging chads”, general partisan stupidity and the controversy surrounding Florida’s electoral votes, the actual “winner” wasn’t known for weeks.

MAD waited for a few days to see if a result would be forthcoming, delaying the printing of those pages and the final stapling of the magazine as a result. Finally they went to press having printed half the issues with Bush and half with Gore as the winner. The piece was moved from “Dumbest Thing” #11 to #1 (actually this was decided well beforehand), and featured the following disclaimer:

Editor’s Note: For the purpose of historical inaccuracy, some editions of this issue depict George W. Bush being sworn in, while others show Al Gore. In the interest of bipartisanship, we urge all Americans to buy them both!

I believe I have relayed this story before here on The MAD Blog but I thought it worth revisiting on yet another Election Day.

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