The American Debate: Election from another planet
'Greetings, earthling! We have come to study the election of your leader."
"Oh, swell. First it was Sandy, now it's little green guys. I hope this is the last October surprise."
"That is what you call a joke, yes? Let us please be serious. Tell us, who will get the most votes from the populace?"
"Wrong question. It doesn't matter who gets the most votes. It's who gets the most electoral votes. See, we have 50 states, and each state gets electoral votes based on how many members of Congress it has, and that's based on population, but not entirely, because each state gets two senators whether it's big or small. We call this our 'Electoral College.' "
"Don't you dare dis America! We reserve the right to choose the person who gets fewer votes. We've done it four times already. We even did it 12 years ago - wait, why are your heads glowing?"
"We are studying your college on the Internets. In your numerical system, you have 538 of these 'electoral' votes, yes? And this election is close, yes? Please tell us: what happens if each leader-applicant receives 269 votes? Surely you would then choose the winner of the populace votes?"
"Naw, that would be too easy! In our system, we'd let the House and Senate fight it out."
"We have heard of those places. Much marble and granite. That is where we would find your wise people?"
"In your dreams. The House is run by Republicans, and they pick the president if there's a tie, so they'd make Mitt Romney president. The Senate picks the vice president if there's a tie, and it's run by the other team, the Democrats, so they'd make Joe Biden the vice president. Problem solved! Hey, why are you fellas frowning? That's a frown, right?"
"First you would invent a crisis. Then you would solve it in a manner that does not compute."
"You're missing the big picture. Thanks to the Electoral College, candidates can focus all their attention on just six or seven 'swing states.' Romney is doing that now in Ohio. He's telling Ohioans in his TV and radio ads that our president's auto bailout was a failure because Chrysler is moving American jobs from Ohio to China. OK, now what's wrong?"
"We are scanning news dispatches. The vehicle-maker says it is not relocating jobs from Ohio to China. It says this Romney human is speaking 'fantasies' that are in direct contradiction to what is real. Such behavior we find unacceptable. How can that occur in a contest for leader?"
"Clearly you fellas haven't spent much time down here. The cable shows are fighting about that car thing as we speak. You wanna watch 'em with me?"
"Negative. The extremely high volume is injurious to our auditory canals. Tell us: How much in monetary resources has the American zone expended on this election?"
"If you include the House and Senate races? Six billion bucks. But it's cool, because the 'wise men' we call judges say so. We can spend as much as we want, and we don't even have to reveal who's spending it. We call that 'freedom.' "
"Such a sum is better spent on helping your less-fortunate fellow humans."
"Not gonna happen. A lot of the people who spend big money on elections aren't fans of stuff like that."
"We would also suggest that you be more respectful while communicating with us. We request that you address us without looking so frequently at your protuberant appendage."
"You mean my hand? Lighten up, guys, this is a smartphone."
"We thought you indicated it was your hand. Or is this 'smartphone' part of your hand?"
"You betcha. I'm checking the campaign news on Twitter. Watch my fingers fly."
"Yes, we are most anxious to input that information. Please enlighten us."
"OK, this poll has Romney up a point, and this one has him down a point, but maybe they're undersampling cellphone users or Hispanics, which may also explain this new swing-state poll that has Obama upticking or downticking within the margin of error among registered voters, or maybe it's likely voters, or maybe it's whoever was home during Hurricane Sandy, and wait, here's a story that says Sandy helps Obama, and another that says Sandy hurts Obama, but I really need some polling on that, and, hey, here's Gallup! Pew! Reuters! Rasmussen! Fox-"
"Human, you are exhibiting extreme agitated distress. It is incumbent upon us to depart now."
"C'mon, stay awhile! Surely you fellas can see that our elections are awesome."
"Permit us this serious response: What planet are you from?"
Dick Polman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dickpolman1.