Today, the subjects of the Assimilated Provinces of Megalomerica will go to the polls to vote. It’s mostly a formality, since the polls have already come to them, and everyone pretty much knows what will happen. When you jerk a wooden puppet you know where it’s going in general, even if you can’t exactly predict where this ankle or that wrist might point.
So, sure, there may be a few surprises. Mary Custer, Dog Catcher of Farmingdale, has run a bitter campaign for Prothonotary against the incumbent, Fred (Fats) Flanagan. She has charged him with notarizing the sale of Murt Jorgens’ pig farm, even though he was enthroned in the john while Jorgens was signing it. Mr. Flanagan has responded by asserting that Miss Custer is a “meddlesome old female with a nose to pick a lock.” That earned him the withering wrath of the faculty of Farmingdale Community College, well known for the prominent proboscis and the snuffing up of more than their share of Farmingdale’s country air. The people of Farmingdale, however, seem to believe that truth is a sufficient defense against a charge of slander, and Mr. Flanagan will likely retain his swivel seat and his ink stamps.
Nevertheless, far-seeing people in the APM have been growing concerned about the Integrity of Elections. The Evil Party, whose principal political belief, after their heartwarming trust in the probity of the Great Unzipped, is that Public Money Solves Everything, worry that too much private money has been flowing into the elections. The Stupid Party, whose principal political belief, after their pious devotion to the National Tissue Paper, is that Private Money Solves Everything, have grown alarmed at the rate of participation in the nation’s elections. For some people are so eager to cast a vote, they are prone to do so even after their decease. Should some caviler object that their vote cannot then be rational, and the result of a judicious consideration of the common good, in concord with justice and the standards of immutable moral truth, the reply is that it never had been so in the first place.
One of the reasons for this is the poll itself. Now a poll is nothing other than a counting of polls, or, in other dialects of the APM, pates, beans, and noggins. In ancient times, before the establishment of the APM, some of what were then called states enforced the wholly unfair poll tax, which some scholars believe was meant to ensure that if you were going to cast a vote you had to have a poll to think about it with. Subsequent scientists went on to show that such polls were quite dispensable; especially after Big Bullhorns were invented, and other tricks of the political trade, so that people cast a ballot with the same passion and the same good sense with which teenagers adopt a fashion in underwear or spasmodic dancing.
Both the Evil Party and the Stupid Party engage in these tricks. They and their friends, the Political Auction Committees, gather together great audiences of the wisest and most virtuous of their countrymen to determine which of the parties will best serve the common good. When the audience is ready, each party brings forth its Candidate, or, in the vulgar tongue, its Whore, and the Candidates then gyrate to the left and right according to tunes called out by Pimps in the Press, promising favors to members of the body politic, accompanied by wild cheers and cat-calls. It is wonderful to observe their agility. Some favor the whirling and spinning of a previous Resident, known to his admirers as the Garden Hose, or the Human Pretzel. Others like to point out a ridiculous or noxious feature of the opponent – a tuft of hair, a great many-lobed wart, a patch of ringworm, or the clap. It comforts the people to know that they could hardly have devised a system more likely to reward men of calm consideration, equanimity, self-knowledge, and virtue.
But back to the polls. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the people of the Assimilated Provinces of Megalomerica have minds, and might on occasion be persuaded by an argument based upon reason, an apprehension of what is good and beautiful, and passions in harmony with it. The polls make sure that those arguments will never take place. The polls work in this way. Political scientists and puppeteers devise means to test the jitters of the body politic. They jigger it with electrodes, spurs, hypodermic needles, matches, itching powder, nails, and dry ice, and test its reactions upon being asked a Political Question. They have one girl, stripped to the waist, cozy up to the Body Politic from behind, wreathing her vague arms round his chest and whispering, You really want a tax – tax – cut, don’t you, licking his earlobe, while another girl, stripped below the waist, settles upon his lap and giggles, whispering, Let’s go get those rich cheaters, big boy! And the mechanism records the results.
It’s a reverse Lie Detector. Instead of detecting lies by measuring involuntary systemic changes – sweat, heart rate, blood pressure, trouser tightness – it instills falsehood by instigating those systemic changes. It then records the results, which then become News, which is another name for the electrodes, spurs, hypodermic needles, matches, itching powder, nails, and dry ice. This is what is known as the Election Cycle. (If your Election lasts for more than four years, you’re in for it.)
Some people in the APM wonder whether it’s time to defend the common good by attacking the Polls. They assume that, like wickedness and the common cold, Polls cannot be eliminated before the trump of doom shall sound. So they recommend lying in earnest. You could lie about your age, your income, your education, your intent to vote, your rating of this that the other issue, and so forth. You could flip a coin; heads you lie, tails you don’t, flipping it for every question asked. You could lie for every third question. You could lie on even numbered days and tell the truth on odd numbered days. You could determine to tell the truth for every question but one, choosing a number between one and ten. You could enlist others to do the same. It wouldn’t be dishonest. The Pollsters are not about truth. They are about power, big boy. Just ask the girls.