(and by an unwitting T.S. Eliot)
Due volte nellamiagiovane vita ho visto ilpopolo americano
Respintodall’Electoral College, é or ache finiscaperché
Non é democratico ma alla fine dellagiornata, penso
Che la maggiorpartedegliamericani, diqualsiasipartito,
Dovrebbeessere in grado di accettarel’ideache una persona
Un voto, contandoallostresso modo, é il modo piu giusto
Let us go then, me and you,
When the returns are spread out on maps of red and blue
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted precincts,
That which remain from GOP high-jinx
Of voter suppression and registration hurdles
From that devious Mitch with his face like a turtle:
Precincts where many people still await
And proud boys took a Cheeto’s bait
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “Why do I exist?”
Let us see why my unfairness persists.
In the booths the voters come and go
Thinking of Donald or Uncle Joe.
There’s purple states which are neither red nor blue,
There’s purple states and candidates fight to make it their hue,
Prevail in Pennsylvania and twenty votes I will bestow,
Pocket just two fewer for being best in Ohio
Pick up Florida and twenty more your tally will grow,
Is Texas in play? Have they made a sudden leap?
In these battleground states on this warm October night,
I doubt that these voters will be getting much sleep.
How does one account for my longevity?
And the preoccupation with obtaining two-seventy?
I am what taints the balloting,
And why many think I should face dismantling;
You shall vote! You shall vote!
But on just certain states our candidates dote;
You shall vote and you shall turn that ballot in,
And you’ll try to forget that your vote counts
Less than that of a rural Pennsylvanian;
A vote for you and a vote for me,
This process reassures us,
But some votes seem to count more than yours does,
It doesn’t quite sound like democracy.
In the booths the voters come and go
Thinking of Donald or Uncle Joe.
And indeed you shall vote
And I’ll wonder, “Is this the year they will abolish me?”
For I serve no purpose, or make much sense, logically.
And crowning the losers is not such a good policy —
(They will say: “He may have one time been quite indispensable!”)
My existence being rationalized that voters were reprehensible,
With recent outcomes that are just incomprehensible —
(They will say: “But now he has proven to be most nonsensical!”)
Do I dare
Admit that I am antiquated?
I think it might be time
To acknowledge a nation founding fathers had not anticipated.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known men and women who want to be President,
And I have measured out my life with losers ascendant;
Adams, Trump, Harrison, Hayes, George W.
They all technically lost.
So sorry to trouble you.
And I have known them already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
And I have known the states already, known all fifty—
States that are red, white and bare
(Like that asshole Pence with a fly in his hair!)
Why must it be so in political chatter
That only makes some states seem to matter?
States on the coast or states in between
No worries. The candidates yearn
For North Carolina’s sixteen.
I have seen blue states turn red and red turn blue
And watched John King wonder just what to do
And solemn strategists wishing they’d gone to Michigan too
(Michigan, won in 2016 by just 13,080
Which makes their 16 electoral votes seem overly weighty)
Since the lady won New York by nearly two million
(Which must really sting the man with tiny fingers.
Whose gross incompetence upon us still lingers)
Because the vote of one counts more than another civilian!
Should they, after buying ad time in Cleveland, Phoenix and Philly,
Have the strength to say, “This electoral college is awfully silly.”?
Though I have thus far always endured,
Perhaps citizens of Boston, Fargo, and Nashville might like to be acknowledged,
Which might happen when they get rid of the college;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I am afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
When historians vigorously debate,
How could Florida determine a whole nation’s fate.
Things have changed since Hamilton’s Federalist paper 68.
So must the system before this democracy asphyxiates,
To try to distill all the votes into one convenient amount
To manufacture such a tidy number of 70 plus 200,
To say: “You, the voters I regret having plundered,
Come back to tell you all, you now equally count”—
If one, no matter where he or she dwells geographically
Should say: “I am going to vote now;
And do so emphatically.”
The citizens of battleground might enjoy the respite,
From the cacophony of suitors sounding so desperate,
After courting voters in Tucson, Toledo, and Tampa,
After data analytics on how to reach an elusive Pennsylvanian Grampa—
Maybe you could include all the folks?—
In your campaign stumpings and speeches and blunders and jokes!
So that when Steve Kornacki analyzes election returns hence:
We won’t get stuck with losers like T**** and Pence
If one, an ordinary one in a non-battleground state,
Can confidently walk to a precinct and say:
“This is what they meant,
When they said that people should elect the president.”
No! I am not the magical elixir;
Am neither a remedy nor fixer
I’m not suited for this nation in this day and age,
When people in states red and blue must be more engaged,
I am deferential, glad to have been of some use,
Politic, simple, and unauthentic;
I really should be more apologetic;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
You people deserve something unambiguous.
I grow obsolete … I grow obsolete …
We should listen to Mayor Buttigieg aka Mayor Pete.
Shall the Constitution get amended? Have the voters I offended?
This is not what those founding fathers ever intended.
I have heard the cast of Hamilton singing, it was splendid.
But Mr. Hamilton’s creation has been overextended.
I have seen the voters walking to those voting booths.
When they do, they should know some fundamental truths
That when they take off work, wait in line, get harassed
And when they pull that lever and their vote is cast
They should know this as unequivocal
Their vote counts just the same as any other individual.
Who in June 2019 provided the quote which forms the epigraph of this poem. While Pete likely knows Italian, he said it in English and I translated it.
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Gary M. Almeter is an attorney who lives in a quaint and cozy neighborhood in Baltimore, MD with his wife, three children and beagle. His short stories, essays and humor pieces have appeared in McSweeney’s, Writer’s Bone, the Good Men Project, 1966, and Splitsider. He is the recipient of the Maryland Writer’s Association’s 2015 Creative Nonfiction Award. His first book “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” will be published in March 2019.