Nov. 5, 2002 -- If you don't think of Donald Duck as a political figure, you haven't lived in Sweden very long.
With apologies to Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob SquarePants, and even Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck has a fine tradition of scoring high in Swedish national elections, among voters who favor the joke vote.
In fact, over the last 20 years, the Donald Duck Party has scored enough write-in votes at points to theoretically be the country's ninth-most-popular political organization. That's quackers!
The Donald Duck Party — better known in Sweden as Kalle Anka — dukes it out with the Tax Evader's National Party, the Beer Party and the Professional Bachelors Party for seats in the Riksdag, Sweden's 349-member parliament.
Nonexistent Candidates Disappear
About one in 20 Swedish voters cast their ballots for unofficial, write-in candidates. That's about 26,000 votes.
Donald's best showing in recent years came in 1985, when he took 291 votes. Perhaps in a country of 9 million, that's not that impressive. But let's remember — he's a cartoon duck and he frequently gets more votes than living, breathing politicians.
Sadly for Donald, the joke won't go on forever. Swedish politicians are changing election rules. By 2006, voters will be prohibited from choosing nonexistent candidates, eliminating the potential embarrassment of leaders having to open an embassy in Tomorrowland.
Momentum is already starting to shift. In national elections Sept. 15 — when Sweden's Social Democrats garnered 40 percent of the vote — the Donald Duck Party had one of its worst showings in years — earning just 58 write-ins.
Perhaps that's bad for a human politician. It's still pretty good for a cartoon duck. This strange expression of Donald's popularity is hard for many Americans to understand.
"Donald's an Everyman and he's very popular abroad, in many cases more popular than Mickey," says Hollywood historian Stephen Schochet, author of Fascinating Walt Disney. (The Walt Disney Co., by the way, is the parent company of ABCNEWS.com, which publishes The Wolf Files.)
"Mickey was always the model citizen. But Donald was the one with the temper. He argues. He gets angry. He's always played better with adults, especially in Europe."
Cartoon Duck Beats Lame Duck
Donald Fountleroy Duck isn't exactly a novice in U.S. politics. Even though he's never registered as a candidate, he regularly receives token support in virtually every state — gleaning countless votes, even in presidential elections.
Unfortunately, cartoon characters have trouble establishing residency in a voting district and are frequently disqualified from office. That's a handicap — but there are still a lot of voters who wish upon a star.
In the controversial 2002 election, Donald Duck proved his political prowess once again. He beat out both George W. Bush and Al Gore for district director of the Marion Soil and Water Conservation Board in Salem, Ore.
OK, maybe that's not such a great job. It comes with no pay. In fact, nobody ran for the job — all 4,570 votes were write-ins and very few people took the election seriously.
Donald Duck received the most votes, although they were all immediately discounted. Embarrassed officials didn't even announce the tally.
Instead, Gore — who came in second with 23 votes — was declared the winner. In a curious political footnote, after the 2002 election, Gore could have bought land in Salem and remained in American politics by taking Donald's place.
But perhaps the outgoing vice president felt being a lame duck is much better than beating a cartoon duck — especially on a technicality. Gore decided to return to private life, at least for now. Donald Pays Taxes, Mocks Hitler
Still, Donald Duck is a proven force with the electorate. His reluctant membership in The Mickey Mouse Club only proves his status as an outsider. His current work in House of Mouse on the Disney Channel reconfirms his enduring fame. And the sailor suit reminds voters of his commitment to the military.
Indeed, Donald has served this country. In World War II, the Roosevelt administration commissioned him to appear in The New Spirit, a 1942 film that stressed that paying your taxes promptly was the job of every patriotic American.
Ducks usually like their bills — but not their tax bills. However, when irritable Donald sees the terrible threat of the Nazi war machine, he hightails it Washington to personally deliver his share to the Treasury Department (which paid for the film).
Later, in the Oscar-winning Der Fuehrer's Face (originally titled Donald in Nutziland), our hero is forced to work as a virtual slave in a Nazi munitions factory, where he gets beaten up for not saluting Hitler.
Donald wakes up to find that he's no Nazi. It's all been a nightmare, and he is still living in Disneyland.
But if Donald ever has to leave, it's comforting to know that he has a home and political future abroad. If you throw in some meatballs and an Ikea discount, he might even bring Mickey and Goofy.
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.