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King Features Column

(As usual, Tge deal with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


       FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JAN. 6, 2012
       NO ONE IS NO. 1
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       It’s quite possibly the outstanding news photo of 2012. OK, that might be a little gushy, since it appeared in The New York Times Jan. 3, but it may best capture the mood of the entire election year.
       It shows a sign depicting a ballot with a check beside “NO ONE!” According to the caption, it was taken outside a barn in Marshalltown, Iowa, but it certainly reflects the sentiments of mass disgruntlement everywhere in this nation.
       How many polls do we need to quantify how fed up millions are with what they consider a dismal choice to lead a “government of the people” that only seems to function on behalf of rich people -- that is, when it functions at all.
       Only Nevada offers a “none of the above” option, but it’s nonbinding. Unfortunately, huge numbers of American voters make that selection in an even more damning way: They don’t vote. Time after time, they’re in the majority. And those who do show up at the polls all too often are registering not their support but their opposition ... not FOR a candidate, but AGAINST the other.
       Instead of a participatory democracy, we’ve deteriorated into a passive-aggressive one, where citizens have good reason to believe their well-being and beliefs will be sold out to the highest bidder and feel powerless. That’s probably why there’s an organization that advocates for “none of the above.” Since there’s a group to push just about any case, why not this one? Naturally, it has a website, NOTA.org, with its own pitch:
      


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       Instead of a participatory democracy, we’ve deteriorated into a passive-aggressive one, where citizens have good reason to believe their well-being and beliefs will be sold out to the highest bidder and feel powerless. That’s probably why there’s an organization that advocates for “none of the above.” Since there’s a group to push just about any case, why not this one? Naturally, it has a website, NOTA.org, with its own pitch:
       “In any state with a binding ‘None of the Above’ ballot option, the list of candidates for each office would be followed by the votable line ‘None of the Above; For a New Election’ ... If that option gets more votes than any candidate for the office, then no one is elected to the office; instead, a follow-up by-election with new candidates must be held to fill that office, until a candidate wins a plurality of votes among all other candidates including ‘None of the Above.’”
       The problem is that NOTA would almost always win, so we’d have a nonstop election cycle. What’s that? We already do? Good point, but this would make things worse, and nothing could ever be done by our officeholders, because we wouldn’t know who they were. This is where we can chortle about how that might be a good thing, but most people don’t really believe that, unless their names are Ron and Rand Paul.
       At least, though, “None of the Above” on the ballot offers an active way to register no-confidence in a choice between bad leadership and worse, between Tweedle-Dee-Dum and Tweedle-Dee-Dumber. But it isn’t enough. So here’s an alternative:
       When “None” invariably wins, the runners-up assume the offices, stigmatized by the fact that a nobody beat them, that the majority of their fellow citizens preferred something besides what they had to offer. When they raise their hands, they will have to exclaim “No. 2” before they take part in debate. While many of them seem to be beyond embarrassment, shouting “No. 2” just might do it.
       The only way he or she can stop being mocked is if, in the next election, a somebody defeats a nobody.
       Of course, this does nothing about the dump of money that the wealthy use to foul the process, but it’s a step away from the raw waste that is drowning a nation planned as a shining example.
       The framers of the Constitution wrote of an intent to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” That was less than 226 years ago. Posterity is supposed to last longer than that. But it’s being corroded by a national disgust in which the prevailing support these days is for no one. Surely we have someone who can do better than that.
      

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