Our long national nightmare, otherwise known as Election 2012, is finally over. There are a few questions, though, that remain unanswered:
Will despondent Republicans try to form an alternate country, free of entitled moochers, under the leadership of Ted Nugent?
Will Mitt Romney re-invent himself again and try to run in 2016 as a liberal Hispanic woman?
Will MSNBC’s Chris Matthews finally switch to decaf?
Did late night comedy hosts secretly bankroll Michelle Bachmann’s winning campaign?
What role will Jay-Z and Springsteen play in an Obama administration?
What does Barack Obama owe Bill Clinton?
“Now, Bill, I’ve already explained to you that I can’t create a cabinet-level Department of Young Interns.”
Should Fox replace all of its ‘news’ programming with MMA-style cage matches between unhinged right-wing pundits?
“Watch Karl ‘Puppetmaster’ Rove battle Ann ‘The Shrew’ Coulter for the right to face Donald Trump in tonight’s ‘Extreme Championship Finger-Pointing!”
In addition to dealing with the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ (which would be a great nickname for an accountant, if accountants had nicknames), and about a dozen different international crises, there is one looming catastrophe that neither party has even addressed.
I’m referring to the inevitable post-election rise in unemployment now that thousands of TV commentators, bloggers and campaign strategists have become irrelevant. This is a group of people whose job consists of talking about things that might happen, but actually make nothing happen themselves. How can you retrain these people, so that they can one day contribute to society?
This year, and certainly for the last month, it’s been as if the election consisted entirely of commentary about commentary, while discerning voters have had to strip off layer upon layer of analysis to get to the actual candidates.
It’s what I imagine it must have been like to finally be alone with a woman in the Victorian era–by the time you’ve stripped off the dress, the petticoats, the girdle and the bloomers, the passion’s gone and you’re just wondering what you were after in the first place.
“Meet The Press” is a great example of this tail-chasing dog. Now we get to watch some regional campaign strategist from one side arguing with someone else’s deputy campaign chairman about a video clip of a senior campaign advisor reacting to . . . something. By that point I’d forgotten who I was voting for.
If anything can explain the large number of ‘undecided’ voters this time around, it’s that there was too much ‘analysis’ for people to wade through. Not too much information, mind you. But at least the graphics rocked.
I thought it was absurd enough when CNN debuted its holograms, but NBC may have topped them this year by taking Rockefeller Plaza and christening it ‘Democracy Plaza.” Which sounds a bit too Brave New World for my taste — “Worker drones will report to Democracy Plaza for synchronized gymnastics at 0800 hours . . .”
Complete with an electoral map drawn on the iconic ice rink, the only thing missing was a line of Rockettes doing a kick-line as each state was called. The whole ‘red state’/'blue state’ thing always sounded a little too Dr. Seuss. It’s like USA Today, with its colors, and pie charts, and simple, comforting headlines.
The ripple effect of the post-election economy will be tragic. Late night monologues gutted . . . MSNBC having to add a block of 80s sitcoms just to fill their programming day . . . C-SPAN running eight-hour marathons of ‘Booknotes’ . . .
And what will become of the fact-checkers? Ignoring how sad it is that there need to be fact-checkers, sadder still is the fact that nearly every American could be his or her own fact-checker, using the same tools professional fact-checkers use—the internet and Google.
What will these intrepid guardians of the truth do without candidates who lie to us? Will they hang out their shingles as freelance fact-checkers, available for hire to settle marital arguments and bar disputes?
“Miss, you should know that the man buying drinks for you is not the president of a small startup company; he has in fact been unemployed since last March.”
In the past few days, I put some thought into how to tweak both the electoral process and the news media to ensure a much smoother, and I think more entertaining, election four years from now.
First, it seems ridiculous that we have an even number of presidential electors. This year, there was a not insignificant chance that we would be all tied at 269 electoral votes.
This would have meant the House would choose the President and the Senate would choose the Vice-President, unless the Senate vote were tied, in which case the current Vice-President would break the tie and choose . . . the next Vice-President.
How hard would it be to pick one more elector? Hell, let people enter an online contest for it—just get it up to an odd number! For that matter, add a Senator, to avoid a deadlock there.
My second big idea is a no-brainer. Voter fraud, hanging chads, glitches with computer voting—we need a solution to voting ‘irregularities.’ So let’s try a merit system.
If your state cannot count all its votes by midnight the day the polls close, its electoral votes will not be counted for that election. Period.
Sorry, Florida. You guys developed the space program, fer chrissake. If the technology exists to let me watch video of a guy jumping out of a spaceship, then you can figure out how to get all your votes counted by midnight.
In addition, I have a plan for the Senate that would accomplish two things:
1. 1. Get citizens more engaged in the process
2. 2. Remove the influence of outside money
The plan? Don’t elect Senators. Make Senate duty exactly like jury duty. Send an official letter to randomly selected registered voters, two from each state, plus one randomly selected voter to serve as “senator-at-large.” So yeah, some years, Delaware might be the most powerful state in the union with its THREE senators.
And the beauty part? Since there won’t be any campaigning for Senate, they’ll be able to work throughout their entire term!
I have some ideas to improve the debates, as well. First, no moderator. Let some randomly-chosen multicultural working-class family come up with all the questions, and then have Survivor’s Jeff Probst convene a tribal council to choose a winner.
Anything would be better than watching some otherwise competent journalist forced into the role of ‘swamped Applebee’s hostess’—“We’ll be with you in a minute, Mr. President.”
Whatever changes are made to the debates, please get rid of the ‘town hall’ format. You know, the one in which the candidates, instead of avoiding questions from a moderator, are forced to avoid questions from real voters.
The phrase implies passionate townspeople shouting pointed questions about their specific concerns. Instead, it’s like a ninety minute market research group for a new potato chip.
Lastly, instead of podiums, suspend the candidates in harnesses above a dunk tank. Then attach electrodes to their nipples, and every time either of them repeats a catch phrase or says something deliberately misleading, give ‘em a little jolt.
I voted absentee this year, and the only thing I didn’t like is that they didn’t send me an ‘I Voted” sticker,” which meant I couldnf’t claim my free doughnut at Krispy Kreme. Like most true Americans, I believe that nothing symbolizes our sacred obligation to vote like fried dough.
The best part of voting absentee was being able to research the candidates online while looking at my ballot. Be honest—there have been times when you voted for something knowing nothing about either candidate. Or maybe you’re like me, and have quirky rules when you don’t know the candidates. Me, I always vote against anyone who is listed with a nickname in quotation marks. Sorry, Jim ‘Chubby’ Anderson.
I would guess for offices like County Soil and Water Commissioner, even members of the candidates’ families don’t know how to decide. But this time I was able to do my due diligence. As it turned out, both of the candidates for Soil and Water are in favor of protecting the environment, so that was a tough call.
Judgeships are a tough call, unless you’ve heard something scandalous. I’m more worried, though, when I see several judgeships for which a candidate was unopposed. You see a few of those in a row and it feels like you’re voting in a Soviet Bloc nation in 1954.
Of course, first on the ballot were the presidential choices (no sense of dramatic structure—make that one last, like Best Picture!). I’ve always loved the fringe candidates—those individuals who best combine a strong vision for the country they love with a shaky hold on reality.
We should elect two presidents, one from the major parties and one from all the others–we’d call that person the Fringe President, and the FP would be allowed to vote on things like ceremonial days, and naming buildings.
Now before my left-leaning friends chain themselves to our apartment’s bike rack in protest, I’m not talking about the Green Party. You guys are legit. And I don’t wanna piss off the libertarians, ‘cause they all have guns.
No, I’m talking about really fringe parties like the Twelve Vision Party®. Their platform is based on the traditional American notion that “The Prime Law®, the three-thousand-year-old-secret, guarantees you will prosper and live happily.”
Sadly, not every fringe candidate qualified in every state, but Google has a page where you can see updated vote totals for every candidate, and I’d like to share some of the highlights:
· I’m not sure what it means for the direction of the country, but sitcom and reality TV star Roseanne came in fifth place. For the presidency. Of the entire country. Almost fifty thousand people searched their conscience and decided that Roseanne should be the one facing down Iran at the negotiating table.
· It’s unfortunate that parts of the GOP are branding Obama ‘socialist,’ since there were four ACTUAL socialists running for president that they could have tried to demonize. Combined, the Socialist Workers, Socialist USA, Socialist Equality, and Liberation and Socialism parties received just over twelve thousand votes. I’m just sayin’ the revolution might take a while.
· There were three Reform Party presidential candidates. My favorite? Mississippi’s Barbara “Barbaradale” Washer, whose website lists nothing under ‘Profession’ or ‘Accomplishments.’ They’re literally blank. Very existential.
· Richard Duncan got over ten thousand votes, but he at least had a resume: Vice-president, Freshman Class, Mount Union College; Vice –chairman, City of Kent Board of Building Appeals (always seen as a stepping-stone to the White House).
· The Constitution Party was on my ballot. Their platform mostly mentions their anti-abortion stance, I guess because the framers of the Constitution had so much to say on that subject.
· The tinfoil-hat crowd (sorry, I mean ‘Conspiracy-Americans’) had a great choice. Jeff Boss, who believes he witnessed the NSA carrying out the 9/11 attacks, and anti-Semitic white supremacist filmmaker Merlin Miller each got some thirteen thousand frightened votes.
· The Objectivist Party candidate got about four thousand. They’re guided by the principles of Ayn Rand, and based on the thirty or so pages of The Fountainhead I got through in college, I don’t care.
· I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate Duluth head shop owner Jim Carlson (his ‘Grassroots’ Party earned three thousand plus votes).
· And lastly, Prohibition Party standard-bearer Jack Fellure, who declared “My platform is the 1611 King James Bible.” Not to worry you, but five hundred and nineteen of your fellow Americans voted for that guy.
My all-time favorite presidential candidate was on my 2008 ballot when I lived in Chicago. In a classic case of Illinois political weirdness, although twenty-five thousand signatures are required for a new party to appear on the ballot, and John J.Polachek collected exactly zero, if nobody contests the petition you file, the state puts you on the ballot. Nobody contested, so there he was.
Here’s what we know about Mr. Polachek. He’s a fifty-one year old taxi driver living in Rogers Park. Period. In an era where we are drowning in minutiae, I find it refreshing that we don’t know anything about this guy.
Oh–and we know he did not select a running-mate . . . the ballot actually said ‘None Listed,’ which tells me he thought to himself—’Don’t worry, I got this.’ According to the State Board of Elections, his only policy statement was a handwritten note that said ninety-five percent of his passengers agreed with his ideas. Good enough for me, and I hope he runs again.
In honor of Mr. Polachek, I have created the Polachek Award, which will be given each election cycle to the candidate who most embodies the surreal in American politics. For 2012, the Polachek Award goes to:
Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI)
Check out this inspirational story. Tea Party candidate and reindeer farmer Kerry Bentivolio (R) has won election to the House. He was the only candidate left after Rep. Thad McCotter (R-Mich.) decided to retire following revelations his campaign filed fraudulent petitions to get him on the ballot. Then the party missed the filing deadline to get someone else on the ballot
He’s a reindeer farmer who often dresses up as Santa Claus. His brother told the press Kerry was "mentally unbalanced" and likely to be incarcerated if he were elected. And he won a seat in the United States House of Representatives with fifty-one percent of the vote. Congratulations, Kerry!