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Rock the Vote

By Eric R. Columbus

Editor's Note: This is the first in an occasional series of editorials examining the issues surrounding the Elvis stamp. We welcome your submissions.

AFTER MONTHS OF hard-fought battling between numerous candidates, the '92 campaign is beginning to fall into place. The lengthy winnowing process is virtually over, and two leading candidates have emerged, ready to face the nation.

One is nearing the end of a wildly successful career. The other is a rising young star. One is plagued by setbacks but still commands great national respect for his past accomplishments. The other is riding the tide of solid southern support while constantly pursued by rumors of womanizing.

While each side has its fervent supporters, many voters plan to stay home, complaining that the choices are too similar. Who will prevail? Only the American public knows for sure.

A succinct review of the upcoming Bush-Clinton battle? Not quite. I'm following the real race: the Elvis Election.

YES, THE NATION is in worse shape than you thought. The U.S. Postal Service has decided to let the people choose which visage of the King will adorn the inaugural stamp of the Legends of American Music series. After considering over 50 designs, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (this actually exists) submits for your approval two Elvises: the pelvic '50s "Love Me Tender" crooner and the fur-clad '70s Vegas denizen of "Burning Love" fame. Larry Agran will not be included.

How will democracy run its course? Simple. Your friendly neighborhood post office will provide "pre-adressed polling cards" featuring the dueling Elvises. Just select the desired image, apply a stamp and send your ballot on its way. Vote early and often--"polls" open on April 6 and don't close until April 24. Ain't that America. (Ain't that Chicago.)

This is no April Fools' joke. People in the Postal Service are genuinely excited about this. They don't have much else to be excited about, granted, but they're pulling out all the stops for this one. In February, Postmaster General (great name for a band) Anthony M. Frank unveiled the stamp designs on the Showroom stage of the Las Vegas Hilton, site of 839 sold-out performances by the King (someone in the Post Office actually counts these things).

SOME CRITICS DOUBT the wisdom of exalting such a legendary offender of controlled substance laws. But I have a different bone to pick. Why is the Postal Service violating its ban against portraying living Americans on postage? "We've had tremendous interest in this particular stamp," says Frank frankly. And why this sudden burst of glaspost?? "I wanted Elvis' fans to play an active role in the stamp selection process."

And why not? Maybe the Postal Service is on to something. The results of the election will be announced in May, but don't you dare touch that dial. The King was always known for his encores.

Try this on for size: if Bill Clinton slips between now and July, it's entirely possible that the Democrats could have a brokered convention in which an entirely new candidate could emerge victorious. Speculation has centered around Cuomo, Bentsen, Gephardt and Gore.

But the self-imposed experts may be missing the boat. Allow me to be so bold as to suggest that the Democrats may very well spring for a braver choice: Elvis.

The King would be a Democratic dream come true, the ideal candidate for an election year that's all shook up. He's a complete outsider, without any ties to Washington, S & L's or Gennifer Flowers. In fact, he's dead. Or once was. You don't get more outside than that. He's wealthy enough to finance his own campaign. He plays well in the South. He can tailor his message to different audiences, as the stamps ably depict.

Of course, the Dems would have to balance the ticket. Janis Joplin would fit the bill nicely. Or maybe Itzhak Perlman. An Elvis-Joplin (or even Elvis-Cuomo) ticket would galvanize the electorate as never before. Will past drug use sink the nominees? Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, as President Bush did when explaining away Clarence Thomas' joint ventures.

No one claims Elvis would be a shoo-in. Bush will put up a hard fight. He'll undoubtedly revert to the sleazy tactics of his '88 campaign. Perhaps he'll run commercials with Little Richard complaining that Elvis stole all his songs. Perhaps he'll run commercials with Willie Horton complaining that Elvis stole all his songs. And Elvis' foreign policy inexperience will certainly cost the Democrats votes.

Will Elvis' grace land him a spot on the ballot in November? He is, by his own admission, the longest of long shots. But with antipolitician fever running rampant, anything can happen. Don't be cruel to the Democrats--their suspicious minds can't help falling in love with a viable contender. You read it here first.

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