With Friends Like These, Who Needs Electorates?
The Federal government is putting a plan in place to postpone the presidential election in November. Mind you, this is only to be implemented in the event of a terrorist attack on the nation at around that time. However it should be noted that "We assume an attack will happen leading up to the election," according to a Top Washington Official. So if you wanted to look really clever, you could put these two ideas together: We assume the presidential election will be postponed. It’s enough to precipitate liquefaction in even the most cast-iron of bowels. But shouldn’t we have such a plan in place? I mean, just in case those naughty terrorists do manage to pull off the Big One prior to election day?
No. The whole point of terrorism is that small groups of no-goodniks use asymmetric techniques to knock much larger systems out of balance. Chucking a couple of bombs through the right window and getting the US presidential election process halted in its tracks is quite a return on investment. Any nation worth its salt will show some mustard and carry on regardless. Having a plan to postpone the election is like the pilot of a commercial jet wearing a parachute onto the plane. It sends the wrong message.
Such an attack is not going to hit every city in North America. Even if an unusually motivated bunch of evildoers manages to hit every big coastal city from Portland, Maine to Miami Beach, that still leaves 90% of the electorate free to vote, as long as they don’t live in Florida where only 40% of the electorate is free to vote anyway. Let’s say Manhattan, that favorite target of terrorists young and old, gets hit so hard that even the Naked Cowboy ends up putting on pants. But only Manhattan. Should we postpone the election? And for how long? A week, a fortnight, or sixteen years? What if, due to a faulty map, the terrorists attack not Washington, DC, but the Forest Hills area of Queens? My agent would hate it, but it wouldn’t necessitate holding off the cherished democratic processes of our nation.
Assuming at least two candidates on the ballot are still alive after the attack (excluding Dick Cheney, who has been dead for eighteen months), and there are at least three voters left standing, we can carry on. I’m guessing it won’t get as bad as that, but even if it did, the survivors would still be able to go through the motions and make some kind of a statement that way. "Us five remaining Americans won’t be intimidated!" The facts of the situation are these: the administration in power is assuming there will be a terrorist attempt to disrupt our electoral process, sometime between today and voting day. The assumption is that after voting day the terrorists will settle down, apparently. So to stop these terrorists from disrupting our electoral process, we will postpone the election if they try anything. Now where I come from, they have a saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, we won’t get fooled again. And it seems to this fool that postponing the election is tantamount to a disruption of our electoral process. I may have been born yesterday, but I learn pretty fast.
But what alternative is there? Say Washington, DC gets sprayed with Jheri Curl and the whole city is so slippery nobody can leave their house. Should we postpone the election until the capitol has been shampooed? Seems fair. Otherwise, folks in DC won’t be able to participate in our democracy, and we know how much this administration cares about participation in our democracy. So maybe, even if the terrorism takes place on a strictly local level, we should do this postponing thing. Let’s go with this hypothesis, even though it’s stupid (for one thing, there isn’t that much Jheri Curl in the entire country). What constitutes a terrorist action, who decides to postpone the election, and when do they get to decide it? "Hey boss, you’re losing pretty bad in them swing states, and I hear there was a car wreck outside a polling place in Corn Cob, Alabama. You want I should cancel the proceedings?"
Maybe I’m paranoid, like everybody says the minute I leave the room. But it seems like if I give the guy in power a button with ‘postpone the election’ written on it, and I tell him he should press the button if he hears any funny noises, and the guy in power starts losing, do you really imagine he’s not going to find some excuse to push that button? There’s a damn good reason we don’t have an election-postponement system in place in this country: if we did, somebody would postpone the election.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist, who lives in a large human settlement 100 miles south of Bakersfield, which we cannot name for security reasons. Ben also has a lot of outrageously priced crap for sale here. A collection of Tripp’s essays, Square in the Nuts, will be published in August. If his writing starts to grate on your nerves, buy some and maybe he’ll flee to Mexico. If all else fails, he can be reached at: email@example.com