The "Great East Coast Cicada Sex Invasion of 2013" is upon us.
After 17 years of feeding and living under the earth's surface, billions of "Brood II" cicadas will emerge this summer between Connecticut and Georgia, swarming in thick, forbidding billows of shed exoskeletons and raucous insect lovemaking. (To get an idea of what the cicada mating call sounds like, click here for audio.)
For all their physical creepiness and loud public sex orgies, the (actually completely harmless) bugs have a rich cultural history in the United States. Bob Dylan wrote a song about the cicadas, for instance. But cicadas also have a rich political history in this country. Here are their greatest hits:
1. Ronald Reagan name-checks the cicada: In June 1987, Greatest President in American History Ronald Reagan delivered one of his weekly radio addresses on the budget plan for fiscal year 1988. In his prepared statement, he used the cicada in a simile to bash Democratic budget proposals:
Like the cicadas, the big spenders are hatching out again and threatening to overrun Congress.
President Reagan then asked the American people to get behind a balanced budget amendment and the line item veto to "make the cicadas in Congress go back underground."
The subsequent UPI headline read:
2. John Kerry and the cicada-morphing attack ad: Reagan wasn't the only Republican (or politician, for that matter) to invoke cicadas in a political attack. During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee launched a 1:15-long web ad comparing Democratic candidate John Kerry to the "Brood X" cicada. The attack ad includes an up-close shot of a cicada's face morphing into a picture of a confused-looking John Kerry:
The video, which (naturally) painted Kerry as a serial flip-flopper, was emailed to approximately 700,000 supporters of President George W. Bush: "Every 17 years, cicadas emerge, morph out of their shell, and change their appearance," the narrator observes. "Like a cicada, Sen. Kerry would like to shed his Senate career and morph into a fiscal conservative, a centrist Democrat opposed to taxes, strong on defense."
The Kerry campaign and the Democratic National Committee responded to the ad by saying they were "not bugging out" over it.
John Kerry would go on to lose to George W. Bush in the November election by about 3 million votes.
3. Teddy Roosevelt vs. the anti-imperialist cicadas: In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery. During that speech, he passionately defended American imperialism in the Philippines and his administration's policy of imposing "orderly freedom" on the Filipino people.