alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

Presidential Coin Toss

Now that the presidential election is in full swing, one of the nagging philosophical questions of the 20th century is about to be answered: When living in a democracy is flipping a coin a valid way to choose a leader? And if so, who gets to keep the coin afterwards? The Republicans, the Democrats or H. Ross Perot's new party, the Losers?Fortunately -- or unfortunately depending on who you voted for -- only one of the candidates can win. The Founding Fathers considered alternatives, but decided it was doubtful None of the Above would be able to guide the country in the firm, forceful, yet humanitarian manner we demand of our leaders. Well, not after winning election after election after election, anyway.When the dust settles in November only one person will wind up as President. The others will become nothing more than a footnote in history, right alongside such Presidential wannabes as John Fremont, James Blaine, Walter Mondale and that Democrat from a few years ago who helped us sleep through the debates -- what was his name? -- oh yeah, Michael Dukakis.As far as achieving lasting notoriety, Bill Clinton has an advantage. After all, he's already been President once. I know what you're saying: Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Warren G. Harding were Presidents and no one remembers them without pulling out the World Almanac. I know I sure didn't. Of course they weren't involved in so many lawsuits, had the good sense never to wear jogging shorts in public and never tried to have Ronald McDonald adopted as our national clown, a job which Jesse Helms has held -- and excelled at -- for many years.But win or lose, Clinton's not the only one who will be remembered after this election. For not only is this Bob Dole's second run for a top political office -- remember when he was Gerald Ford's vice-presidential candidate in 1976? Me neither -- but he's had a Washington landmark named after him: the Robert J. Dole balcony.That's right. High on every D.C. tourist's list of places to visit -- right after the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and that place where they filmed Linda Blair tied down in bed screaming obscenities (known to the locals as the White House) -- the Robert J. Dole balcony is a must-see. In case you missed it on your last trip to our nation's capital ("Over 10 billion crimes committed!"), it's probably because it didn't exist until recently. Well, the balcony existed, it just wasn't a national treasure yet.When Bob Dole resigned from the Senate so he could concentrate on annoying the Democrats, his congressional colleagues knew they had to honor him. After all, he was the longest running Senate Republican leader in history who didn't end up behind bars. Maybe the only one.While most businesses give retirees a watch after 35 years of service, the United States Senate gives out balconies. Big deal. It doesn't tell time, you can't use it to hypnotize anyone and worst of all, it's too big to wear on your wrist. On the up side, it's easier for tourists to find: just look outside Dole's old Capitol office, which is right by the Howard Baker Suites and down the hall from the Lyndon Johnson PAC Money Night Depository.Having something named after you is a sure sign you've made your mark in life. Look at Thomas Crapper, who invented the flushing toilet. And Samuel Morse, who had a code named after him. Alexander Graham Bell was lucky enough to have a huge telephone company preserving his name until the government decided to break it into a bunch of little companies with names like Bell Atlantic, Bell South and Nynex, the latter not being named for Alex but rather for the Greek god of busy signals. But the epitaphial jackpot has got to go to German inventor Ferdinand von Zeppelin, a man who will be remembered in memoriam as the namesake for both a dirigible and a rock band that won't go away despite having broken up over twenty years ago and having been grossly overplayed ever since.Luckily Bob Dole wasn't an entertainer or he would have been awarded a sandwich rather than a balcony. For reasons that died with George Burns, entertainers are commemorated by either having a star embedded in the sidewalk on Sunset Boulevard or a tuna, chopped liver and pastrami sandwich named after them at the Stage Deli in New York City. While legend has it these sandwiches were invented by -- or at least eaten by -- their namesakes, the truth is they were given their designation so the same tourists who go around Washington looking for the Robert J. Dole balcony will ask a Stage Deli waiter for a "Henny Youngman on whole wheat toast", causing the waiter to think, "I wonder if Moishe can still get me that Uzi he said his cousin was trying to get rid of?"Maybe sandwiches are the way to honor politicians. A Newt Gingrich would be crab with deviled tongue. A Pat Buchanan would be anything on a Kaiser roll. A Gerald Ford would be a Sloppy Joe while a Jimmy Carter would be Peanut Butter and Jelly. A Ronald Reagan could be pure Ham and Cheese (though sometimes they'd forget to include the cheese) and, instead of a balcony, Bob Dole would be remembered as a mayonnaise sandwich on untoasted white bread. And President Clinton? Just give him the Big Mac or the Whopper and get it over with.The sad part about this plan? It's got pretty much everything a voter could want except one thing: a hero.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.