Mike Isaac

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#HungryGames: The White House’s Annual Turkey Pardoning Goes Social

2013_National_Thanksgiving_Turkey___The_White_HouseLet’s talk turkey for a moment.

For the past two decades, U.S. presidents have used Thanksgiving week to name an official “National Turkey.” And now the POTUS wants to take it online.

Call it the battle of the birds: The White House is pitting “Popcorn” and “Caramel” against one another for the title of the best bird in the land, asking the American people to tweet, share and photograph their vote using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

It’s cute, and it’s actually getting some traction online — search the hashtags for #TeamCaramel and #TeamPopcorn. (I agree with Indianapolis Star reporter Jill Disis: This is indeed one of the weirdest things we do as a nation.) It’s also the second year in a row that the Obama administration has done this sort of thing, so I imagine it’s not as foreign to the public.

The White House has had a long and storied history with Thanksgiving turkeys. We have been doling out official “pardons” to turkeys since 1989, sparing at least one triumphant gobbler while the rest of the nation ate record numbers of the birds at family gatherings around the country. But the tradition of presidents picking birds for their own carving tables began long ago — during the Grant administration, in 1873.

Perhaps, as Gawker’s Adrien Chen suggested last year, we would actually take the time to reflect on the sanctity of life and the nature of death if this were a “Hunger Games”-type scenario, or perhaps a national coliseum-like vote over which bird lives, and which one ends up on President Obama’s table at Camp David.

Alas, that’s a touch too morbid for the White House. Instead, go listen to Popcorn and Caramel’s majestic gobbles on SoundCloud, and vote via hashtag on which bird should take the title.

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