In 1758 at the apex of his campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses, Colonel George Washington spent $149 and six shillings (2012: $8,000) on a “A hogshead and a barrel of punch, thirty-five gallons of wine, forty-three gallons of strong cider, and dinner for his friends.”
These were great times when a political campaign was more like a boozy version of Masterchef, but obviously quicker, without Greg Wallace, and more enjoyable to watch.
To put this surprising bacchanalia into context, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has spent US$3 billion, over what feels to be aeons, without much fun, and with no guarantee of success to show for it.
Hypothetically using the Washington “big dinner” strategy (and bearing in mind Mitt is teetotal) $3 billion could have thrown a pretty decent hog-roast and a good few beers for the entire US voting population (working out to $13 per head) – which I have costed thus: 226 million guests, at 150 guests per hog, needing 1.5 million hogs at approx. $1,000 each (no discount) totaling US$1.5 billion, leaving enough budget for a billion cans of bud, some bunting, few tubs of coleslaw and one of those beer can drinking hats for Mitt.
My theory is this: The voters would have met Romney just once, probably got along with him, appreciated the BBQ, and probably voted for him the next day (imagine the social media content!)
Sadly Mitt was prevented from doing this by George Washington himself.
Soon after the election of 1758, The House of Burgesses shut the door on candidates who relied wining and dining themselves into power. The law changed to state “before his election, either himself or by any other person or persons on his behalf and at his charge, directly or indirectly give, present or allow any person or persons having voice or vote in such election any money, meat, drink, entertainment or provision, or make any present, gift, reward, or entertainment, in order to be elected.”
Shame. It could have been so much more fun.