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One of the most useful tropes in political writing is the concept of unintended consequences. For example, the Electoral College sounded like a good idea in Philadelphia in 1787, especially to those in the powdered-wig set who distrusted the people and/or wanted to keep buying slaves. But they didn't see how it inevitably would lead one day to a grifting buffoon leading the nation. But just because it's now a cliche doesn't mean there isn't truth at its heart. For example, big-ass unintended consequences are swimming around Colombia these days.
The late druglord Pablo Escobar had a private zoo. When Pablo got ventilated by the Colombian National Police in 1993, the animals in his zoo were sent off to live elsewhere. Except for the hippos. The hippos stayed in Colombia. And hippos make other hippos. From CBS News:
When Escobar died in the 90s, most of the animals he kept around his estate found a new place to live-except the hippos. The hippos were allowed to roam free. CBS said during Escobar’s heyday he had around four hippos. Now biologists estimate there could be more than 50. While most of the hippos still live in Escobar’s former estate, not all of them can stay contained. The problem is if they get too close to people, things could get dangerous. CBS said hippos cause more human deaths than any other large animal in Africa. Officials in the country also don’t have any good solutions yet on what to do with the giant, exotic animals.
This is a cautionary tale for everybody running for president, and everyone who works for everybody running for president, and everybody covering everyone running for president. Every campaign does certain things that have unintended consequences and, sometimes, these unintended consequences are hippos you can't get rid of. And, in case you need more proof of this political truism, consider the case of the hippo project of Louisiana. From Wired:
IN THE EARLY years of the last century, the U.S. Congress considered a bold and ingenious plan that would simultaneously solve two pressing problems – a national meat shortage and a growing ecological crisis. The plan was this: hippopotamus ranching. Hippos imported from Africa and raised in the bayous of Louisiana, proponents argued, would provide a delicious new source of protein for a meat-hungry nation. In the process, the animals would gobble up the invasive water hyacinth that was killing fish and choking off waterways. It would be an epic win-win. A bill was introduced in Congress, and newspaper editorials extolled the culinary virtues of "lake cow bacon."
Alas, lake cow bacon never made it to market because hippo ranching never caught on. This is probably a good thing for the folks who live on the bayou, who have enough problems with alligators. This has been Hippos Through History, a new feature of the blog that will be part of our extended coverage of the 2020 election.