From the Archives: American Elephant

Of the many injustices in the world, very few were ever done to me. Nevertheless, I’m good at remembering those that were, and one that sticks in my craw is the unjust murder of “American Elephant.”

Back in the 2016 primary season, The Onion was making a bunch of fake speeches for the Democratic and Republican primaries, and by far the dumbest idea I had was called the “American Elephant,” which was just about how the Republican Party needed to create an American Elephant because they couldn’t abide the idea that their symbol was either an African or Indian elephant. That was it.

I got some good notes in the room, and by the second draft, American Elephant was a fan favorite, especially among the newer writers in the room.

At the time, the head writers were playing around with a few different weighted and ranked-choice voting systems, and we took some votes a few different ways and American Elephant kept making it near the top of the list, but the more veteran writers kept thinking it was too silly and after discussions it would always be dropped.

Which is fair enough. The piece didn’t really have much to say about anything, except for general jingoistic bluster. I mostly just think it’s fun to have a dumb joke involving animals and a completely unscientific understanding of how they work and what constitutes a plan. Anyway, we ended up not shooting it, and since the time has long passed when The Onion would use it and I don’t work for them anymore, what the hell, it’s time to just release the beast right here:

American Elephant


A big Texas man walks around the room

MAN: When I was four years old, my daddy gave me a stuffed Republican Party elephant. Named him Ronny.

Crowd applauds

MAN: One day, I came home from school and asked, “Daddy, is Ronny an African elephant or an Indian elephant?”

Crowd boos

MAN: I got whupped that night with a hickory switch.

Crowd cheers

MAN: That switch smarted pretty bad, but not as bad as the truth: there’s no such thing as an American elephant

Crowd boos

MAN: Now hold on. There’s no such thing as an American elephant… not YET!

Gradual realization and applause.

MAN: America needs a dream. We need a moonshot. And we will create an American elephant by 2020.

Huge applause

MAN: God gave man dominion over all the animals, and blessed us with the ingredients to make our very own American elephant.

Applause, as the man pulls out an easel with a series of posterboards. They compare a normal bison (6 feet high, 12 feet long), an elephant (12 feet high, 20 feet long), and a triple-sized bison (18 feet high, 36 feet long).

MAN: Look at this beaut. The American Bison. We can triple its size in every direction. We’re the biggest country in the world, we ought to have the biggest elephant.

The next posterboard shows “before” image of a normal bison head, “after” with its horns moved to where tusks would be. Of course there is applause.

MAN: Next, we gotta take the horns off its head, and move them to its mouth. Now that elephant’s coming along!

The next shows an image of a hound dog with those big floppy ears, and a diagram showing how the ears could be transferred, in much larger form, to this grotesque chimera of a bison.

MAN: And for the big ol’ ears, we can use the ones we’ve already got on the American hound dog. We could have all this in place by 2019, just in time for the finishing touches. What’s missing? The…

He grasps for words, gestures his arm to indicate an elephant trunk

MAN: The probiscuit… what’s it called, the curly nose… the peanut tube on its face. It’s very snakelike, so we could use the classic American serpent, the rattlesnake. That would give it a poison nose, and a noisemaker to boot.

He shows his next posterboard - the modified bison, now with a rattlesnake coming out of its face.

MAN: This spectacular creature lies within our reach. But we must act now. The elephant race has begun, and the Chinese have undoubtedly begun designing theirs. It won’t be easy. Landing on the moon wasn’t easy. Freeing the slaves wasn’t easy. But these are the struggles that bring us together. Let us, together, make America elephant again!