29 June 2010

This is where the term "political spectrum" is originally from

by Cecily
Constitution City is notorious for its high numbers of monuments, presidential ghosts, politicians in suits, and chicken bones on the sidewalks. A lesser-known phenomenon in Our Nation's Fine Capital is the interesting and unusual election process.

The rule is simple: if you want to run for City Council or Mayor, you have to change your name. You can keep your old name for private and tax purposes, but your new politician name must follow this format:
[Vincent] [optional middle initial/nickname] [color term of your choice].

During the campaign season, rallies are held at which supporters wear the candidate's color (usually garments, but face and body paint are becoming more and more popular). Occasionally an especially fervent supporter will paint her house to match a candidate's promotional material. Finally, on election day, each DC resident finds an item of the appropriate hue and brings it to the voting booth, where an instant photograph is taken of the object. Many residents take this opportunity to once again wear colorful clothing and face paint to show their support, but any object (napkin, pencil, earring, bottle of nail polish, power tool, etc) is acceptable, as long as at least 80% of the surface area is a candidate's color. When the photo booths close, the Spectrum Committee sets to work creating a portrait of each candidate from the votes. In each race, the candidate with the largest photomosaic wins.

Choice of last name is a complicated tactical matter; most candidates hire teams including psychologists and linguists to find colors that are perceptually salient but not too common, and color names that balance the distinctive with the familiar. Color terms can win or lose elections- analysts believe that the outcomes of several races have been influenced by candidates' choices of color words that were not well-known (Vincent Viridian lost to Vincent Rose in a landslide in 1992; exit polls indicated that only 12% of voters could identify viridian on a color wheel) or have unclear referents (the 1978 three-way race between Turquoise, Green and Grey took three extra months to decide. In the end, Grey was declared the council member for Ward 5, but controversy continued around reports of vicious arguments in the Spectrum Committee Chambers over whether some 6,000 votes were turquoise or green. Several committee members resigned amidst rumors and accusations that they had called the race for Grey purely in order to end the bickering about the turquoise/green votes).

Once elected, the DC Spectrum Committee provides each council member with a wardrobe and a vehicle in the correct color scheme. Pictured below is the current council.

(standing) Vincent Periwinkle, Vincent Plum, Vincent Pewter, Vincent Blue, Vincent Red, Vincent Marionberry, Vincent "Phil" Brown, Vincent Mustard.
(seated) Vincent Black, Vincent Kelly, Vincent Gray, Vincent Navy, Vincent "Kwame" Brown.

The current election season is especially exciting, because it involves the first-ever Vincent Orange! Orange is challenging Vincent "Kwame" Brown for Vincent Gray's Council Chair seat (Gray and Vincent "Michael" Green are challenging incumbent Vincent "Fenty" Red for the mayor's seat). Historically, council photographs have been dominated by Browns, Greens, and Grays, with an occasional marionberry suit in the back row or the Mayor's office. It would be nice to get some brighter colors in there, although Orange may have a tough time with the electorate, as orange is not a flattering color on many people.


  1. Um so it took me a really long time to figure out that you'd Photoshopped that there pic. Coulda fooled me! I MISS U

  2. What are you implying, Katie? That there is something in this post that is less than the literal truth? I'm so insulted I can barely breathe.


  3. To: Cecily

    This is stellar.

    From: Sean

  4. There are chicken bones all over the sidewalks in NYC, too! It's very confusing. My theory is that either the rats or the feral cats get the chicken bones out of the trash bags and gnaw on them at night and drag them all over the sidewalk so in the morning they are there. It also might be just that people don't even put their chicken bones in the trash in the first place. But I like my rat/feral cat explanation better.

  5. Hm. My theory has always been the latter. I also feel like I see more chicken bones in DC than NY, but maybe I am looking harder, subconsciously, so I have something else to complain about to the Constitution Gods. You know, when I go down to the memorials for my ritual offerings/bitch sessions.