Third Party Blues

“Uh oh! There’s only one more scoop of ice cream left. Not enough to split four ways. I guess I’ll just put in my bowl. No one will notice. More for me.”

Sounds like some politician “redistributing” wealth into his own pocket.

The prevailing ethical guidance I received from my mother when growing up was “Fair is fair.” That phrase was in regular use when any dispute arose.

The one who served was always the last to choose when dessert time came. It kept the server honest. What a concept.

My sister Jan was always on board for this. She became the dessert ‘meister’. Her servings of ice cream always surpassed expectations. She didn’t short herself, or anyone else. What a great sister.

In fifth grade I learned another principle of Distributive Justice.

My class had nine boys and thirteen girls. Our teacher, Miss Hendrickson asked for nominations to elect our class president.

There was no campaign, there were no responsibilities. It was a popularity contest. But Miss Hendrickson had a subtler lesson to convey.

The class immediately coalesced into ‘parties’ organically determined by gender, not ideology (gender is not an ideology, nor is popularity). We boys quickly realized that our four vote deficit put us at a huge disadvantage.

Who would be so primitive as to vote based merely on gender? Fifth graders.

A note to those who think there is no difference between the sexes. Try telling that to a fifth grader. Try getting three girls to switch their vote to the boy (or vice versa) and your theory will be dashed. Anyone would know they had more to lose than to gain by switching sides in that contest.

(Even if the boy was ‘cute’ only one girl stood to benefit by switching her vote. And she could expect to pay dearly for her fawning disloyalty.)

The girls gloated and the boys wailed as each side considered the implications of the uneven distribution of votes. It was an unsolvable problem.

The most popular boy, Barry, got nominated and seconded. The boys were grimly determined to vote as a block despite the certain defeat.

Of course, the girls nominated one of their own. However, factions formed and a dispute arose over which of the two most popular girls should be nominated. With shushing and demands for solidarity they settled on a single candidate. It would be a cake walk.

Then Barry did something outrageous and incomprehensible. Probably the smartest kid in the class, Barry broke ranks and nominated the second most popular girl for class president. How could he!

An immediate outburst of protest from the boy’s camp denounced this betrayal. Barry assured the boys that he knew what he was doing. Another boy seconded the nomination.

Despite Barry’s assurances, some purists in the boy’s camp continued to grumble about this travesty.

A girl asked Miss Hendrickson if it was legal for a boy to nominate a girl.

Smiling at the drama, our teacher said the nominations are open and students could nominate whomever and as many as they wish. She repeated that everyone can vote once for whomever they desire.

The girls realized that with the girl’s vote split, Barry might win. A flurry of whispering and emphatic gestures ensued. They tried to enforce party unity but with little success. And they neglected to counter by nominating a second boy.

I’m sure it is no surprise that Barry won the majority vote, straight down ‘party’ lines. The girl’s mixed loyalties blinded them and made Barry’s ploy a success.

I forgot about that little event until Ross Perot ran for president in 1992, on a third party ticket against George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His splitting the Republican vote gave us Bill Clinton. Thanks Ross.

These days there is much discussion on both sides about possible third and maybe even fourth party runs for president.

I can’t wait.


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