Titus Benton

The 2020 election cycle is sure to make you wish commercials weren’t a thing. It might also make social media a little more cumbersome to navigate. It might even make for some awkward family gatherings. But hey, welcome to America.

While it’s still relatively early, the upcoming elections have me feeling nostalgic about my brief foray into politics. Imaginary politics, that is.

It was the summer of 1998, and I was between my junior and senior year of high school. Missouri’s best and brightest (or so they told us) gathered in Warrensburg on the campus of Central Missouri State University (now the University of Central Missouri). I remember that the water smelled of sulfur and everyone wished there were girls there.

Sponsored by the American Legion, Boys State was a mock government.

We were organized into cities. One of the first guys I met was named Justin Gage. He was from Jefferson City. He was an All-State Quarterback and a McDonald’s All-American in basketball. He went on to play both football and basketball at Mizzou. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2003 and later also played for the Tennessee Titans.

From our cities, we were urged to run for office. I always found the judicial branch the most interesting, so I ran for our city judge. Who wants to be a judge? Most people wanted to run for mayor or an office that would put them on the trajectory to the governor’s office. Maybe the competition wasn’t that fierce, but I won nevertheless. So I ran for the next level up. I won it, too. I found myself running for the Supreme Court – one of just a few spots for the whole camp of 800-1,000 guys. I recorded a radio ad. I made campaign posters. I recruited buddies to get my name out there. We passed out candy. I pressed the flesh.

I remember the night before elections. We were all ushered into the auditorium. Everyone was given a couple of minutes to give speeches. There were some good ones, but my estimation was that everyone was taking the whole thing a little too seriously. Maybe it was because Mel Carnahan was sitting on the stage with us, along with other Missouri political dignitaries.

I took a different route. “This is all fun,” I said, “but it’s also fake. It doesn’t really matter who you vote for, but I think you should vote for me.” Afterward, I gave out more candy. Lo and behold, the next day I led my party in votes and got the second most votes overall, landing a spot on the Missouri Boys State Supreme Court.

My summer of politics was short-lived, but I learned a lot. And I can’t help but wonder if I ever ran for a “real” office how I would do. It’s too late for 2020, of course.

2024, here we come?