For Sale One Slightly Used Vote

I used to think anyone could be president. This concept was put in my brain by my parents who told me that, this being America, anyone can grow up to lead the country. Even me. What they neglected to tell me was that if I wanted the job I'd have to buy it. And it doesn't come cheap.

This is borne out by George Bush, who has been raising as much as $4 million a night trying to reach his goal of having $200 million to spend on the 2004 election. To put that in perspective, it's enough to buy two Jim Carrey Pez dispensers with the candy coming out the butt for every man, woman and child in France, which would definitely teach them not to mess with us again. It would also buy 55.7 million Big Mac combo meals, 4,000 H2 Hummers (the car, that is), or Bill Gates' garage. Okay, half of it.

Political purchases aren't confined to the presidency. In California, Representative Darrell Issa just shelled out $1.5 million of his own money to collect the signatures that brought about the upcoming gubernatorial recall election. Amazingly -- cough, cough -- Issa is vying for the job should the governor be recalled. Talk about trying to buy a political position.

This certainly isn't the first time this has happened. In 1994 Michael Huffington spent $28 million of his own money -- a full third of his fortune -- trying to buy a Senate seat. And lost. Next time maybe he'll remember to check the guarantee before he spends his hard earned cash, and that next time may come soon since, along with Issa, he's one of the 1,278 people who say they might run against Governor Gray Davis. It's a shame Steve Forbes doesn't live in California since he once spent $30 million of his money trying to become president, so you know he wouldn't have a problem forking over a measly few million to not become governor of a state.

Since politics is turning into a bidding war, why not actually let them bid on it? That's right, we should post the presidency on eBay and let the candidate with the deepest pockets get the job. eBay, in case you've been too busy watching The Real World to pay attention to the real world, is the online auction site where you can bid on toys, collectibles, cars, plane tickets, clothing, and broken Elvis ashtrays. Pretty much anything you can think of and a lot you'd rather not think about. Best of all, you can do it from the comfort of your own home while naked, eating cold pizza, and trying not to think about why you haven't had contact with another live human being in over a week.

The process would start when Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist posted an auction advertising the presidency. Maybe something like: "Looking for fame, fortune and interns? Become President of the United States. This exclusive position has only been offered 43 times in 227 years and will allow you to join an elite group which includes George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Millard Fillmore. Generous salary, free housing, world travel, and a good retirement program after as few as four years. Bonus title of Commander in Chief included at no extra cost."

It would be simple, clean, and have many advantages over the current method. For one, since eBay auctions can run for a maximum of 10 days, it would shorten the length of the campaign by, oh, about two years. While this might not actually save any money, it would certainly spare us from having to watch the snippy commercials, listen to insipid out-of-context sound bites, and best of all, not waste our valuable guilt because we'd rather watch reruns of Pink Lady and Jeff than the debates.

The election would not only be shorter, sweeter, and more honest, it would be beneficial to the economy since the money collected from the winning bid could go directly into the Treasury to offset the federal deficit. This is not only a much better use for it than handing it to the three media conglomerates which normally receive it for running all those political commercials, but it would mean the winning candidate would have done something good for the country before he or she was even inaugurated. Possibly the last good thing they'd do, but hey, at least they'd be off to a good start.

The only problem is this takes us, the people, out of the process. Not that we're actually in it, but it's nice having a more realistic delusion than thinking we have a shot if J.Lo and Ben break up. That's why it might be a better idea to auction off the presidency vote by vote. Think about it, in the last election Bush spent $186 million and received 50 million votes, meaning it cost him $3.72 per vote. That's more than a Big Mac Combo meal. Why not cut out the middleman and pay that money directly to us, the American voters? Instead of wasting it on silly things like bumper stickers, political consultants, and traveling around the country pretending they care about us, they could just pay us directly.

That's why I'm putting my vote up for auction. Yes, it's time to make the "e" in eBay stand for election by posting an ad that reads: "For sale: one vote. Original owner. In excellent condition. Only used once every four years." Let the candidates bid. Or big corporations for that matter. It's all the same to me. This will cut out the middleman and, as anyone who ever pretended to understand economics or has seen a Circuit City ad knows, that means we all save. It's what the candidates would call a win-win situation. And hopefully I'll call seven glorious days and six wonderful nights in Cancun.

Now all I need to do is sit back and wait a year or so until the last days of the campaign, when the bidding will really heat up. In the meantime, though, I still need to make a living. Maybe it's time to post an ad for that broken Elvis ashtray I've had sitting in a safe deposit box for the past five years.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.Email: md@maddogproductions.com

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