A Spirited Campaign
Believe it or not, I still have friends in both major political parties. My friends include Republicans who think the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat and Democrats who say much the same about Republicans. And I agree with my friends.
As Ambrose Bierce said in “The Devil’s Dictionary,” a saint is “a dead sinner, revised and edited.” Likewise, a statesman is a dead politician, “revised and edited.” So, naturally, the politicians all look better after they’ve been dead awhile.
So why don’t we start electing them? That’s right, put the dead ones back in office. They may not be as great as the history books say they were, but they can’t be any worse than the ones we have in office now. I mean, how much harm can they do?
Dead men raise no taxes. They start no wars. They pass no foolish laws, sign no treaties full of unintended consequences. Dead men may not be the healthiest of human specimens, but they endanger neither the life nor liberty of others. The dead are the most faithful followers of the cardinal rule of Hippocrates: “First, do no harm.”
Take the current crisis over school funding, for example. Tommy Thomson recently published an op-ed piece about what his father, the late Gov. Meldrim Thomson, would do if confronted by a mandate such as the one recently issued by the state Supreme Court. But what Gov. Thomson might do, were he still alive, is academic. We know that in his current state, he can do nothing — which is apparently what the Legislature and a good deal of the populace want.
Conservative Republicans, who claim to favor minimalist government, should be delighted at the prospect of having dead men in office. “But will the people ever vote for dead men?” you ask. Well, as the late Thomas More said on the subject of miracles, “There are precedents.” Only a few years ago, the recently deceased governor of Missouri won the Senate seat held by John Ashcroft, whose reward for losing an election to a dead man was appointment to the position of U.S. Attorney General. Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota might have won reelection shortly after his fatal plane crash, but Minnesota Democrats blew it by nominating former Vice President Walter Mondale to stand in for the late Senator. Minnesota voters suspected Mondale of being still alive, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, and sent him back to political obscurity.
It was the late, great GK Chesterton who coined the phrase “Democracy of the Dead,” by which he meant that in important political matters, we ought to consult what Edmund Burke (another great dead man) called “the wisdom of our ancestors.” Such questions, said Chesterton, should not be left entirely in the hands of that “small and arrogant oligarchy” of those still walking about.
I say, let’s take Chesterton at his word. Let us also honor the late Sen. Roman Hruska of Nebraska, who in defending a Supreme Court nominee against the charge of mediocrity, noted that there are a lot of mediocre lawyers and judges and such in the country, and they are also deserving of some representation on the high court.
So what about elective office? There are more dead people under the earth than living people on it. Don’t the deceased deserve a little representation by having one of their own in high office? It may be too late to start a grassroots movement for the man, but I intend to cast a write-in vote for Mel Thomson for governor. And it’s never too early to start planning for a late presidential candidate.
“Goldwater in ’08!” ’Cause in my heart I still know he
was right. NH