Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A cats view of the electoral system

This morning when the Daddy got up he announced it was Election Day.  He grabbed a piece of paper from his desk, unfolded it and started reading it aloud.  There were folks running for state senate and house seats, as well as a ballot question on whether or not casinos and race tracks should offer betting on professional, college and amateur sporting events.  Sighing, he put it down and headed out the door, whether to work or to vote wasn't obvious. 

Rudy, who had been listening while eating her crunchies jumped up on the table to read the ballot.  She'd listened to election coverage on the radio and television since coming to live with the Mommy and Daddy and so had some idea as to what this whole voting thing was about.  People went to a poling place and cast their vote.  The person who got the most votes won.  Simple really, but Rudy thought she'd like to see the actual voting some time.  She'd occasionally watched kids fishing at the lake across the street, and figured that voting must be some variation on fishing. 

There was a poling place - that was like the lake, right?  The kids used their fishing poles to catch the fish.  She thought that they cast their fishing lines with hooks and bait on the end when they wanted to catch fish, though.  Perhaps the difference was that the voters didn't want to catch the candidates. Or maybe it was that it could be very painful if there were some really good fisherhumans at the poling place and they all got their hooks caught in the candidates. 

So, instead of casting fishing lines, with or without bait, which would probably smell pretty bad by the end of the day, the voters cast or threw poles at the candidates.  But if you liked the candidate, why would you throw a pole at him or her?  The voter could hurt their favorite candidate.  It would make more sense to throw your pole at the candidate you didn't like, but the news reports were clear that the candidates that had the most votes cast for them won. 

She looked at the sample ballot again, and considered the word ballot itself.  She'd heard of ballet, which was a kind of dance.  So far as she knew, it had nothing to do with fishing or elections, and she didn't think any of the candidates she'd seen on television commercials would be very good ballet dancers.  Dancers tended to be youngish, very athletic and often rather attractive.  With the exception of Sean Kean, none of them were any of the above.  Sean was at least young and athletic looking, although she didn't think he was attractive.  He looked too much like the salesmen on the commercials for cars or carpets.  Rudy decided she was probably wrong about the dancing thing.  Although her reading skills were pretty good, her lack of formal education left her without a terribly complete vocabulary. 

Peep wandered into the kitchen looking for a smackeral, and Rudy asked her if she had any opinions on today's election.  Peep said that she didn't, but that she bet that the Mommy wouldn't be happy about the ballot question on sports wagers at racetracks.  The Mommy had definite opinions about race tracks, having worked at several.  Peep thought that although the Mommy would like to see the racetracks do better financially, she'd say that this proposal wouldn’t benefit the owners and trainers of the horses.  It only would make money for the track owners, and she'd bet that the money wouldn't be used to offer larger purses for race winners.  New Jersey's horse racing industry was in bad shape, both harness and thoroughbred.  Peep's opinion from what she'd heard when the Mommy and her father discussed it; this might keep the tracks open longer, but not benefit the racing industry as a whole.

LT wandered in and announced that he'd decided to run for office.  Rudy saucily informed him that candidates for state, county and municipal office needed to turn in their paperwork long before Election Day, and that in any case, she was pretty sure that one needed to be human to run for office.

"Not if what I'm running for is Grand Poobah of the Cat Club."  He nosed the squishy food in the bowl, finding it to be a little on the crusty side.  "If humans can have elections, then so can we.  I've prepared a campaign speech that I'll present at Friday's meeting, and then you can all vote for me."

Rudy twitched her tail in annoyance.  "What if someone else decides to run?  You could lose, you know.  You're already the chairman of the Cat Club.  Why do we need a Grand Poobah?"

“Oh, I just thought it would be a good idea for us all to start acting like responsible citizens.  We are residents of this town, and our Daddy pays the property taxes and everything.  They won't let us vote in the regular elections because we don't have thumbs, but we can hold our own election.”  LT decided on the crunchy food and ate a bit while Rudy and Peep considered what he’d said.

After thinking for a moment Peep said, “But LT, there are election rules for a reason.  If no one but us knows there’s going to be an election, none of the other cats would have the opportunity to decide beforehand if they wanted to run and to prepare their speeches.”

Rudy chimed in.  “I believe the purpose of elected officials is that they do specific things.  Senators and representatives speak out for their districts and vote the way their constituents would want on issues in the legislature.  Stuff like new laws.  Then there are offices like mayors, governors and the president.  They run their town or state or the country, and set policy, although the legislative branches of government can decide not to pass the laws that would let the policies work.”

“There’s no senate or house of representatives for cats, LT and no president to set policy.  Cats think for themselves and take care of themselves.  They don’t want all the falderol of debating and voting.  Most of us know what is right to do, and we do it.  When there are the few cats that don’t do the right thing, well we just beat them up.”  Peep summed up cat society succinctly.

“Well, then I want to be king.  Or perhaps czar.  I’ve always liked that word.”  After announcing this, LT strolled into the living room and out the cat door. 

Rudy and Peep looked at each other and giggled a little.  “Czar LT.  Well, I guess it sounds better than Grand Poobah LT.”  Rudy laughed outright as she pictured LT with a silly hat on his head. 

Peep considered the problem and said, “Let’s just let LT experience the cat attitude towards government at the meeting.  I’m betting the only one who’d stand for this thing would be Greymalkin.  She has that business background, and her mousing cooperative was modeled after a human business, rather than how cats would have handled it.

“And just in case, maybe we should look around and see if we can find a crown or something for LT.  Who knows, the others might think this is an extension of Halloween, and vote him in.  I’ve always thought that having elections so close to Halloween was a bad idea, since some candidates are more like Halloween characters than folks you’d want running your government.

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