Many elections in the United States are often a joke disguised as a coronation. I went to a coronation this morning. It was a laugh-a-minute session in which so few suckers—err voters—showed up at the polls that, when I was identified as one, several election officials starting baying, “Hey, we have a voter over here!” I was afraid that I’d be roped and hogtied.
Richard A. Brown, running yet again for re-election as district attorney of Queens County, was on the Democratic party line. Brown is a lifelong Democrat. Yet he was also on the Republican and Conservative party lines! There was no one on the Liberal party line, the fourth major party in New York State. And even the minor parties, for example the Greens and the Libertarians, didn’t field any candidates. In a county of close to two million people, with tons of lawyers, there wasn’t one lawyer to run against Brown?
So who was I voting for, other than the esteemed district attorney for life?
Well, working on the principle that if they force you to write on ruled paper you should write the wrong way, I proudly cast a write-in ballot for the long dead comedian Lou Costello. That was my comedic protest; my zany way of saying to the political ruling class in this county, city, state and the rest of the country: You, who lust for power and can never have enough parties chiefs begging at your feet, disgust me.
I am not exaggerating about the nation. There are many other elections just like the Brown fiasco. Last year the governor of New York ran for re-election. He refused to debate in the primary, ignoring his opponent even when they attended the same event. Then he only debated one time in the general election. With most of the power—and money—on his side, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had very few problems winning re-election.
“If You Don’t Vote, Don’t…”
So I don’t want to hear lectures about the wonders of American democracy. It is an often stacked game; stacked in favor of the house, the incumbents. (“If you don’t vote, don’t complain,” we are endlessly told by apologists for the system, often men and women on the public payroll). That’s even though I always play the game—I vote.
It’s because for many years I have been fascinated by the bizarre, the freakish and—-even as I am amazed by them—by political ruling classes and their sleazy ways of operating. Queens has had some of dirtiest politicians in the often dirty history of a dirty city. One borough president, Donald Manes, killed himself some 30 years ago as the prosecutors dug into his scandals.
City politics was once summed up by district leader George Washington Plunkitt. He famously defended his “honest graft” with the comment, “I seen my opportunities and took advantage of them.” But the rest of the state isn’t exactly run by a bunch of Gladstones. Two of the three most powerful leaders in state government are now on trial for allegedly having itchy palms. Governor Cuomo once posed with them as they wore sombreros and referred to themselves as “The Three Amigos.”
But this column isn’t even about venality. It is about the ridiculous elections and the pols who lust after power. They think their holding office is the only way the republic can survive. God save us from these saviors. I have written frequently about these political careerists, who believe in “the perpetual campaign.”
Yuk, I Don’t Want to Touch It!
For example, take this district attorney election, but be sure to have on rubber gloves if you touch it. I can see that it is not unreasonable for some pol on the make to have allied lines. I can understand that a democrat and a liberal can be allied. They have similar philosophies. I can also see that a republican and a conservative can be allied. But a politico running on both the democratic and republican lines! (And then also the conservative party to boot). That’s a freak show masquerading as a political marriage.
This is tantamount to a Labour party candidate in Britain running with the wholesale backing of the Conservative party. He or she might run for a parliament in which the Tories might not field a candidate. But I don’t think the Tories would actually endorse and help Labour. This is the same as an Irish political candidate endorsed by two of the great rivals of modern Ireland, Fianna F’ail and Fine Gael, parties that represent opposite views of where Ireland should go.
When a candidate doesn’t have to compete, when he or she has every major party lining up to help him, then you can’t call these scenarios “competitions.” They’re buffooneries, they’re mockeries. They’re pro wrestling “exhibitions.” They’re two out of three falls or to the curfew and beforehand we’ll go over who is the dummy who takes the fall. They’re many idiotic things. They’re anything but a contest.
The latter implies at least two competing ideas or philosophies of government. It means we don’t know the outcome before the game begins. Competition means many people think Real Madrid is going to win. Then they play the game and Barcelona pulls an upset. It means the Yankees win the first three games of a series, but the Red Sox come roaring back and win four in a row.
Real competition is the unpredictability of a truly free society, which I sometimes question how many of my fellow citizens actually want. Competition, which can be disturbing, is the way societies find better answers, but in the economy and politics. Shun it and you end up with endless farces. You end up with a Soviet Union in which everything—most especially political power and the economy—is frozen. People ultimately justify this with the excuse, “This is how we’ve always done it.”
How Does It Happen?
Yet how does our county district attorney persuade all these often disparate political parties to all agree that they must support him, even though, in theory, they are supposed to oppose each other? When people or institutions who should be competing stop competing, then it’s time to check if you still have your wallet.
Brown, the same with many other pols here in New York and other places where pretend elections take place, often is awarded a party nomination by party chieftains. Why are they so giving when Christmas is still seven weeks away?
They figure it is best to jump aboard the victory train at an early stop so they can get the best seats. That will make it easier, they believe, to get goodies from the man or woman who will have an office for years and will have jobs to give out.
In most cases, the pol who is the beneficiary of this political largeness doesn’t have to subject himself to a party primary. It makes you sick, especially when one hears ridiculous arguments about the sanctity of the vote. I doubt the courageous men and women who died and bled to save us from Hitler did it so some pol could run on almost every line, with no one against him.
I protest in my own way. I tend to vote for minor parties—especially if they are parties that call for less government, less spending and tax cuts along with the United States no longer playing the unassigned role of policeman of the world (No, I don’t believe President Obama when he says more advisers will not lead to a greater U.S. role in Syria. President Kennedy initially sent 16,000 “advisers” to Vietnam in the early 1960s. Very few members of Congress even noticed).
I’ll Stay at Home
Millions of Americans are also protesting in their quiet way, although most pols are ignoring them, hoping their seething disgust with the political system will go away. How are they doing it?
Fewer and fewer people bother to vote. Millions won’t even register to vote. They tend to be disgusted with all the major parties. What do these forgotten men and women—who work and pay taxes on top of taxes because the people in charge tend to be spendthrifts who should be sent to a Betty Ford center for spending addicts —want? This is my guess.
They want no more coronations.
They want real political contests.
They want the career pols, including Richard Brown, to return to the private sector and learn how the average citizen lives.