Prank candidates make voting worthwhile

The choices presented drive students to desperate acts.

by John Hoff

In this lame and lackluster MSA election, the best candidates might not be, in the strictest sense, alive. Yes, I’m convinced: Your precious vote should be a write-in for “Network and the corpse of FDR.”

You might be confused at this point unless you are the kind of person who reads the back pages of The Minnesota Daily. Plenty of folks actually begin their reading with “Backtalk” features like Sudoku, the crossword puzzle, Network and Dr. Date.

Some of these rear readers never even make it here to these Op-Ed pages. Then again, some oh-so-serious Op-Ed readers skip right over the fun stuff on the back pages, which is really a shame.

But if you religiously read the back pages of this newspaper, then you are quite aware of the spirited write-in campaign by Network, a wise and wisecracking, all-powerful yet disembodied brain residing in a fluid-filled vat somewhere on the East Bank, within a mighty fortress of solitude. What benevolent control and influence Network already exerts on our daily lives we cannot know or (it is said) our puny brains would explode.

The corpse of FDR himself is standing in for Network’s vice-presidential candidate, as well as a corpse can stand, and would surely be less dangerous than Dick Cheney. What an honor it would be for any American to cast a vote of homage for FDR, who could run a campus, country or war better dead than Bush/Cheney could alive.

The other choices presented in this MSA election can’t help but drive students to desperate acts. Emma Olson and Ross Skattum don’t offer a platform worth getting excited about. Reading the bios on their Web site, it’s pretty clear which one is the driver and which one is just a mannequin riding in the front seat of the vehicle.

Nathan Olson and Adam Engelman (the other campaign with an “Olson” for president) offer an equally meatless diet of issues, including the eternal problem of textbook prices.

Hopefully, students have wised up to the fact that little can be done by student governments about textbook costs no matter how often these recycled promises are trotted out like limping ponies that should be mercifully put out to pasture.

Hey, Olson Twins: why don’t you promise to lower the price of lunch in Dinkytown and Stadium Village? This could have a bigger economic impact on students, plus success with such a limited and local issue is more likely. (Which is to say: not likely at all.)

Oh, and then there’s Mike Griffin and Vince Patti, who are forced to run as write-in candidates because of inadequate signature sheets. Their main issue (besides whining about the fairness of the election itself) focuses on heavy-handed police “party patrol” tactics. This is an outstanding platform, and when I first read about it, I was filled with excitement to see how they would fare in the election.

However, learning about Griffin and Patti has led me to conclude they lack the savvy and self-control to run stuff effectively, even at a student government level. A Griffin/Patti victory would probably lead, indirectly, to worse crackdowns by police and more ugly confrontation at drinking parties.

Getting intoxicated students riled up but failing to offer effective leadership is a recipe for riot. Save the rioting for the 2008 Republican National Convention, people.

Faced with a choice between substance but no savvy and savvy but no substance, the best choice is to make a statement about your choices. Like writing in your own name, or NOTA (none of the above) a write-in vote for “Network and the corpse of FDR” is like saying, “I am a good citizen who showed up to vote, but these are inadequate choices.”

Victory by Network and FDR’s corpse is theoretically possible, but not necessary for such votes to have a real impact. Let us say, to choose a likely possibility, one of the Olson platforms wins. (It would be so funny to write in “Olson and the other guy,” wouldn’t it?)

One question any political scientist wants to know is: What was the margin of victory? Did Olson win by a landslide? Having won by a landslide, does Olson have a political mandate? Or did Olson win by a small margin?

In a four-way race (and make no mistake, this is a four-way race) somebody is likely to win by a plurality instead of a majority. The winner of this race might have, for example, 29 percent of the vote. That isn’t squat for a mandate.

But in an election where a prank candidate is running a viable campaign (as Network appears to be doing) an amazing political possibility emerges. Network/FDR’s corpse could get more votes than the margin of victory. Network doesn’t have to be realistic, only funny enough to earn nearly worthless votes. So Network can promise to do stuff like, um, seek provisional authority to declare war on Wisconsin.

In the event of votes for Network greater than the margin of victory, the so-called victor has no victory at all, because disgruntled votes cast for a prank platform could have changed the outcome of the election. Wouldn’t that be terrific?

Write in “Network and FDR’s corpse” for MSA president and vice president.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]