Courting The Drunk Vote

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 1 2012 @ 6:09pm

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It's a time-honored tradition:

In colonial times, it was considered ungentlemanly, corrupt, and downright sleazy to openly solicit votes through campaign speeches and advertisements. Instead, upstanding politicians engaged in an old and cherished tradition called "swilling the planters with bumbo" – otherwise known as "getting voters drunk on Election Day." (Bumbo was a type of rum.)

In Washington’s day, elections were largely an excuse to party. Voting presented a rare opportunity for people to gather from miles around, catch up with their neighbors, and imbibe liberally. Crafty politicians capitalized on the festive climate to rack up votes. In fact, it was difficult for anyone to win an election without wining and dining his constituents. Though it was technically illegal to explicitly purchase gifts for voters, it was perfectly appropriate for a politician to buy a round for two hundred of his closest friends on Election Day.

(Photo: US President Barack Obama gets a beer and a pork chop as he visits the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on August 13, 2012 during an unannounced stop on his three-day campaign bus tour. By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)