Chalk One Up For the Toga Candida!

As everyone on earth must know by now, elections in the US are a little more than a month away. And every time I open an election pamphlet to read “position statements” and biographies I find myself wondering what kind of person would want to wade into the Extreme Fighting world of politics. I got one answer a few years ago from a radio news show.

Somewhere in the American Midwest — I think it was Kansas, and correct me if I’m wrong — there was this guy who couldn’t get a  job anywhere. I mean anywhere. Even (or perhaps especially) after he’d mailed out over 400 resumes. And this was during a time when the stock market was going hog wild and small biz owners were so desperate for employees they had to resort to actually placing warped cardboard “Help Wanted” signs in their windows. So this dude finally had just one job option left: running for office. Which he did. And he won. How? All those resumes he sent out gave him plenty of “name recognition”!

Oh, too facile. Because what I as a voter would really appreciate, during this long-winded election season, is some upfront indication of an aspirant’s level of integrity and moral fiber. That is, beyond the standard Giant Ugly Signs, carefully crafted position statements, cleverly worded CV’s, and canned “debates”.

The ancient Romans believed likewise and so, anyone running for political office in the Eternal City was required to don the Toga Candida. This particular style of toga matched the dimensions of the standard toga — a 20 ft. semicircle cut from wool — but was fashioned of wool that had been repeatedly washed, then impregnated with chalk, to make it extra white. It was known to Romans as the  “bright toga” because, as you can imagine, such a garment must have dazzled in the Mediterranean sunlight.  Which was the point: Roman voters could then easily single him out on the street and approach him with specific questions.

I’m all in favor of some universal identifier for potential office-holders. We could even use togas. Imagine what kind of gravitas a contender would exude strolling around his precinct, being interviewed on C-Span, or debating dressed so … classically! Even the Brothers Brooks might be impressed.

In fact, one famous American has already ridden such Roman style to victory. Sure he partied like a madman. Perpetrated hilarious hijinks. Boasted a 0.0 GPA. But we got to see him in action. In his toga. With him, we knew exactly what we were getting. His name was Blutarsky, and he was elected to the United States Senate.

I yield.

*For anyone wishing to try the true Roman toga for themselves, here’s how: take the required length of cloth mentioned above, preferably in lightweight wool, hold the midpoint of the length under your right arm. Fold the length at the front of the body over the left shoulder. Then take what remains on the left and fold that over the left shoulder as well. Presto!—you’re dressed for first century business. Chalk optional.

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