One Washington D.C. insider called it “a funny, but rather creepy, trend.” Dozens of congressional Democrats have been spotted toting tiny, animated dolls of their party’s most iconic figures.
“I was briefing [Representative] Bobby [Rush] about an upcoming vote, and I heard a voice that wasn’t his saying, ‘no, no, no,’” said an aide who asked not to be named. “I looked around, but we were alone. I asked if it was his phone. He turned away and pulled open his jacket pocket and said, ‘be quiet Ted, I’m busy’. It was weird.”
The aide thought Rush was trying to be funny, but her curiosity was piqued.
“I told the story to another staffer,” she said, “and he told me not to worry. It was just Bobby’s Lil’ Ted [Kennedy]. I thought he was joking.”
As it turns out, Rush is just one of dozens of congressmen who are rumored to tote a miniature animated doll. Around a foot long, the dolls have been seen sticking out of the pockets and briefcases of many Washington Democrats. The D.C. gossip blog Wonkette say the dolls are a “must-have” among the party’s elite.
“It was a little uncanny at first,” said a waiter at The Monocle, a restaurant frequented by congressmen. “You’ll be taking an order and some senator’s Lil’ Woodrow Wilson will say, ‘take the crab cakes — they’re divine.’ But you get used to it. Sometimes I don’t even ask the congressman what he wants. I’ll directly ask Lil’ Woodrow.”
Origin of the dolls unknown
While many Democrats are known to possess a lil’ icon, their provenance is unknown. Neither Amazon nor eBay lists them in their catalogues, and when this article went to press, no Washington shops were known to carry the item. One thing is certain, however: having a lil’ icon can demonstrate a congressman’s loyalty to his party and its tenets.
Julia Bertram, a syndicated political fashion writer, said that for many Democrats these days, it’s not about how many bills you sponsor, but it’s which doll you have that gives you gravitas on Capitol Hill.
“It’s a little like high school,” she said. “You’ll find out that Dianne Feinstein has a Lil’ FDR in her purse. You’ll see her speaking to it during a judiciary committee hearing. You’ll hear it saying cool things like, ‘don’t be like those Constitution fetishists.’ And you’ll snicker and want a Lil’ FDR of your own. You’ll beg and plead with your parents. But by the time you get one, all the other Democrats have them, too. Then someone will show up with a awesome new Lil’ Jimmy [Carter] and you’ll want it.”
Fashion or useful?
Not every lawmaker who totes a lil’ icon sees it as a fashion accessory. Many legislators have come to rely on the dolls’ sage advice regarding political matters.
“Sometimes I get into heated discussions, and my interlocutor will have me cornered,” said one representative who asked not to be named. “You know, there might a gun bill, and I’ll think, ‘yeah, I like that idea. Ban guns.’ Then whomever I’m arguing with will bring up the Bill of Rights stuff and I think, ‘oh crap.’ That’s when my Lil’ Bill [Clinton] will come to the rescue. He’ll say, ‘buddy, we did it in ‘94 and the Supreme Court didn’t stop us. We can do it again.’ He really comes in handy.”
Other lawmakers keep the dolls with them as a source of inspiration on rainy days. Even some Republicans have hopped on the bandwagon.
“There are times when some of my colleagues from the GOP put up fierce resistance, say, to a massive immigration bill,” said one senior senator from Arizona. “So I have a Lil’ LBJ to carry with me. He knew what it was like to face opposition from within your own party. Isn’t that right, my friend.”
“You betcha,” said a deep voice from inside the senator’s briefcase. “F*** them.”