This episode features schoolchildren who are not a normal part of the LHOTP cast. Elmer Dobkins is a slow, Forrest Gump-like schoolboy who is picked on by a pair of particularly mean older classmates on a regular basis. When Miss Beadle announces that the school will be holding elections for "class president ", they nominate Elmer as a joke. He ends up running against Mary Ingalls, who plays fair, and Nellie Oleson, who attempts to buy votes with candy and parties. On election day, Elmer is pushed into a pig pen by the bullies, and, while filthy, still musters up the courage to step up in front of the class and give a moving speech about treating others with kindness and the difference between right and wrong. A tearful Mary raises her hand, withdraws from the race, and throws her support behind Elmer. The vote is taken, and the vote ends up in a tie--until Miss Beadle realizes that Wille was in the outhouse when the vote was taken. Upon his return, he votes--for Elmer. Nellie screams at him, to which he replies, "that's why I voted for Elmer; now that he's president, he won't let you be mean to me anymore ". As Nellie runs shrieking from the schoolhouse, Elmer's classmates, newly chastised and appropriately humbled, surround him and offer heartfelt smiles and congratulations. One of several excellent LHOTP episodes dealing with the subject of bullying.
When Miss Beadle announces that it is time to elect the new Class President, Mary Ingalls, Nellie Oleson and a boy named Elmer Dopkins end up being the candidates.
Poor Elmer lives with a kind and loving father who cares deeply for him but tries to shield him from every hurt in the world, while the older boys laugh at him behind his back and pick on him.
Of course, Nellie does her best to buy her votes, using candy and parties to 'sway' the electors in her favour. (With help from her mother!) Mary wants to fight fire with fire but that isn't so easily done and when she decides to resign her candidacy after hearing Elmer's reasons for continuing to run, Nellie doesn't have a prayer.
A good episode where the bullies don't win and are made to feel justifiably ashamed.
This episode really gets to me. Every single time I watch it, which is at least twice a year, I get choked up over poor Elmer's plight. Perhaps being the parent of a school age boy has something to do with that, but it's also a testament to how well written this episode is. The story is timeless, unfortunately bullying in school is still prevelant today, and somewhat familiar. "The Election" is one of many LH episodes that deal with the subject. In fact, it is the third such episode in this season! (It would be more, but I don't count the Nelly ones) Many fans know that Michael Landon was bullied in college, and perhaps in high school as well, and it has clearly had an impact on him.
The character of Elmer is quite sympathetic. Not quite bright enough to equal his peers, but certainly not stupid. His love of animals, particularly injured ones, tells of his gentle nature and pure heart. He wants so badly to be accepted by his "friends" that he goes along with their mean-spirited pranks and tells his father (and himself, no doubt) that they we only kidding around. He wants to believe this, but like his father, he knows the truth. The look in his eyes at the end of the scene with his father in the barn is heartbreaking. He is loved by his parents though, and I believe it's his love for them that gives him the strength to go to the school and say the things he says to the class at the end. After being pushed into the pig pen by the bullies (who lure him there because they know of his love for animals-these guys really stink), he looks down at the handsome new shirt his mother made him for election day. He must be thinking of her and how hard she worked on it. And perhaps too, he is thinking of his father, who loves him enough to make him give up the election, even though it's not what Elmer wants. Elmer never much stood up for himself before, but maybe now that he sees how painful it must be for his folks, he feels it's time to say something. Elmer would never have been able to say those words without the love of his mother and father. It makes you wonder if Michael Landon was imagining a different outcome for his past self as well as for Elmer. This is a very good episode, I highly recommend it, but have the Kleenex handy for the ending. That father/son embrace gets me everytime.
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