There are a lot of questions lingering in the minds of voters about what happens now that the midterm elections are over. How will the results affect the economy? Health care? Financial regulation? But one question is particularly vulnerable to shifting sentiments in Congress: Will Jack Daniel’s birthday become a national holiday?
The distillery that has produced Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey for more than 100 years recently completed a 10-city-bus tour. It was kind of a “whiskey party express” aimed at bribing people, with hats and T-shirts, to sign a petition that calls for the establishment of this new national holiday. It would be a perfect acknowledgment of the new vapidity in American politics and the kind of thing tea-party-leaning congressional representatives could wrap their minds around. Comprehensive immigration reform is, after all, tiresomely complicated.
Of course, there’s very little solid data available about whether Jack Daniel’s drinkers lean left or right. We do know that lobbying money from liquor companies has trended Republican for the past couple of decades. A recently completed United Kingdom study—which followed the habits of British youths through their 20s, 30s and 40s—found that the most intelligent children grew up to “drink alcohol more frequently and in greater quantities than less intelligent children.” What this means for politicians and voters in the United States we can only guess. Does it indicate that Democrats are heavier drinkers? That tea partiers are likely tea-totalers? Or does it simply tell us that smart people need to self-medicate in order to forget how stupid everyone else is?
Apparently, most members of Congress, regardless of their drinking habits, are smart enough to steer clear of openly endorsing Jack Daniel’s elevation on the calendar to the level of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite thousands of signatories to the petition and support from the Tennessee delegation, coordinators of the “Back Jack” bus tour and marketing campaign admit that an officially sanctioned national holiday is “a long shot.” But all that could change with a new Congress.
And why not? Backing Jack isn’t so far from “taking America back”—our national need to actually progress forward notwithstanding. Millions of Americans already surrender entire days at a time to Jack Daniel’s, whether privately or in the company of a few unemployed friends. Maybe we’re on the cusp of a new era in which, rather than pretending to idolize stodgy figures of historical importance, we can finally begin to acknowledge Americans and—more importantly—companies and corporations that make a difference in our everyday lives. There’s no reason we should confine that contribution to liver disease, either. Why not Rupert Murdoch Day? Or Monsanto Month? How about putting Sam Walton on the $5 bill?—nobody cares about that Lincoln dude or his meddling big-government ideas from, like, 150 years ago, anyway.
I suppose it’s indicative of the pop-financial infrastructure of modern-day American elections that, by emulating the struggle for political recognition, a pusher of legal drugs can find a crack marketing campaign. That Americans, even as they fail to muster real enthusiasm for solving pressing problems, are willing to get behind such an effort—either with no prodding at all (Jack Daniel’s Day would be awesome, dude!) or in exchange for a crappy hat manufactured who-knows-where—can only mean that corporations are finally more interesting than people and that branding is more engaging than civic responsibility.
But what really gets me is the poor taste of it all. It’s not that, to sell more whiskey, Jack Daniel’s marketers would piggyback on the American dream, but that people get enthused about Tennessee whiskey at all. The stuff is overly sweet with a finish that can only be likened to sucking on a formaldehyde-infused cadaver’s toe. If you want to talk about a real American drink, we should talk about Kentucky bourbon.