November, 2000, Volume 8 Nr.
3, Issue 87
by Jozef Hand-Boniakowski
What if they gave an election and nobody won? The United States held a presidential election on the first Tuesday in November in which fewer than half the registered voters participated. Aside from the fact, that almost a week after the polling, nobody has been declared a winner in the electoral college, or to be more accurate, no one has won the electoral representation in the electoral college that chooses the winner, nobody has won. I ask that the last statement be reread as it is written with purposeful intent.
In the United States' system of democracy, people don't elect the president. They elect electors who elect the president. So, even if one candidate were to win enough states to garner the coveted commitment of 270 or more electoral votes, that person is in fact not the president-elect until the seated body of electors meets and elects that person the new president who in mid-January becomes the president on Inauguration Day. But, my opening paragraph begs the question in this disturbing election. It does not take into consideration the electoral college as it stands as of this writing, without crossing the 270 vote finish line, nor, does it take into consideration the position of victor through straight ballot cast plurality. Rather, it looks at this most amazing election in clear terms of the eligibly registered U.S. electorate and concludes that since the majority of us did not even bother to vote, that nobody won.
I for one want that option on my ballot. I want to be able to enter the polling booth (or vote on the Internet - but that is a debate of another kind) and I want the option of voting for "No-one" or "Nobody" and if no-one or no-body wins, then we get new candidates. In lieu of this vote casting in favor of conscience, I favor what is known as instant run-off elections. In a simple version of the instant runoff election, voters get to vote for their first and their second choices for say, the president. In my case, in the presidential election of 2000, using instant runoff election I would vote for Ralph Nader as my first Choice and Al Gore as my second. Someone else of a different persuasion may vote for Pat Buchanan and George W. Bush. Since either of us are voting our conscience for the candidate that we believe is best for the position, we remain enfranchised feeling good about our decision in voting for candidate of our considered choice. If the first choice candidate does not get above a set percentage of votes (say 10%, 50% or whatever else is determined fair and placed into law) their candidacy is over and they are removed from the election and the voter's second choice becomes the first choice vote.
Instant runoff elections would not cost the nation any more money. It would not extend the electoral season nor process. It would not disenfranchise third, fourth party voters nor those voting with protest in mind. It would take full advantage of the electoral college (should the country choose to keep it after this fiasco). It would prevent an imbroglio like that which we are now currently in the midst of. And, the non-candidate "nobody" can become a real voting choice option on the ballot should we want it.
So who's Abbie? A few days ago, around 8 p.m., my phone rang. After a long seemingly interminable silence (which usually indicates a sales pitch on the way), I asked, "What are we selling?" A youngish female voice representing the MBNA Bank of North America gave her pitch trying to recruit me for my alma mater's (Saint Peter's College) gold credit card. I told this pleasant young woman in Delaware (MBNA's home) that for the past two years I had been collecting credit card offers. She asked how many I had. An entire bookshelf's, I said, totaling easily over $2,000,000 worth of credit offers. I mentioned that on "Buy Nothing Day", I was going to burn the solicitations as an offering to the god of the credit-free. But first, I stated that I would pull out all the postage paid business envelopes and place political anti-credit card statements on them and drop them in the mail - sending them back as a protest to the mailers in a non-violent form of legal monkey warfare. I told (my now captured MBNA pusher of bankrupting credit) that such tactics were common in the late 60s and 70s and that the one of the biggest proponents was Abbie Hoffman. She did not know who Abbie Hoffman was, admitting to being only 24 years old. I suggested she pick up a copy of Abbie's book "Steal this Book" to get a better handle on Abbie's techniques. It's available free on the Internet. Back in the early 70s, my copy was stolen. I hope it was further passed on.
What does this have to do with the election? After the shenanigans in Florida, Oregon and New Mexico, one could speculate that Abbie is still alive and figuring our ways of throwing the political monkey wrench into the electoral process and the democracy which he so ardently questioned much of his life. I can just see in my mind's eye, Abbie, designing ballots offering ambiguous choices, confusing the electorate, switching the ballot box contents around, sending the absentee ballots to the incorrect address and arranging dead people to vote. If there was a way to keep the chad from completely falling out of the ballots, Abbie would have thought of it. He had so little faith in the system. This election, however, revealed that Abbie Hoffman's brand of monkey warfare was not necessary, for, it is practiced by the system itself. And, it will continue from this day forward in the courts, the Congress and in the minds of the electorate for quite some time, where just as in the media as in everything else, money talks and the best monkey wrenches can be purchased. As Ralph Nader says incredulously, "Everything is for sale.
In "Steal This Book", Abbie, quite the radical activist, proffers a prescription for electoral fraud protest. He writes,
I recently heard a Republican radio voice (referring to the hand recount in Florida and possible court cases questioning dubious election day practices) suggest that the United States has become a "Banana Republic." Lovely. In response, I quote from the last paragraph of the November 9, 2000 issue of "Granma" the official newspaper of the government of Cuba, whose people recently and successfully contended with another Floridian fraud in the kidnapping of 6 year Elian Gonzalez for political expediency,
The US year 2000 electoral process used up 3 - 4 billion dollars in this presidential election only to have a mere few hundred votes difference between the major players. How many millions more better spent on more pressing social needs will it take? Successful target marketing on both sides of the major political divide this election cycle have created a monkey wrench of unknown Hoffmanian proportion. As of this writing, after the first recount, Bush garners 2,910,078 votes to Al Gore's 2,909,117 (CNN) for a difference of 960 votes. Over 6,000,000 people voted for nobody. "Nobody" remains the victor! I sense Abbie Hoffman's smile. May he rest in peace.
© 2000 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD