The comedy film Brewster’s Millions (1985) is more relevant than ever in this 2016 election cycle. But it’s not because of the nutty idea of spending $30 million in 30 days to inherit $300 million. Nor is it the inconsistent acting of Richard Pryor and John Candy in this mediocre movie. No, it’s the idea of
running a sham campaign. A campaign that was so cynical about the political process that running as “None of the Above” received the most votes in a New York City mayoral election. Except that in 2016, Americans have a right to a cynicism worthy of Brewster’s Millions and the great Richard Pryor.
The media has all but disregarded the high level of disillusionment and disenchantment among America’s voters. So too have both the RNC and the DNC — especially given the mounting evidence of Democrats dissing voters behind closed emails. It’s time for at least one voter to do something in response. Something as big as what Richard Pryor’s character did in Brewster’s Millions three decades ago. And since I’m writing this, it might as well be me.
I have actually done this before. When I voted in my first presidential election in 1988. After eight years of the Reagan Revolution’s policies devolving my family into welfare poverty, there was no way I could vote for his vice president, George Herbert Walker “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” Bush. After the clown-car Democratic primaries that included the race-smearing of Jesse Jackson Sen. Gary Hart’s (D-CO) affair with Donna Rice, Joe Biden’s speech plagiarism, and not-ready-for primetime players Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Al Gore, Joe Biden, et al., I couldn’t vote for Michael Dukakis. I voted early and by absentee ballot, since I went to school at the University of Pittsburgh, but was still a New York State resident. And I wrote in “Jesse Jackson.” In some ways, I knew more about America’s dirty politics at eighteen than I’ve demonstrated by voting for “the lesser of two evils” in so many elections since 1988.
It’s not that I don’t understand what’s at stake this time around. The GOP presidential nominee is a narcissistic plutocrat with fascist tendencies. Clearly whatever the Democratic nominee is, she is not as narcissistic or plutocratic, and not at all a fascist. But her background in sly triangulation, in lip-service to racial, gender, immigration, sexual orientation, and social class inequalities and discrimination goes back decades. If part of her qualifications include her eight years as First Lady, then President William J. Clinton’s policies on mass incarceration, welfare reform, financial deregulation, and trade deals outsourcing labor are also her own. Two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog outlining why I would likely have to put a clothespin over my nose to vote for the now Democratic nominee for president.
Now, after more lofty considerations from Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., I am no longer holding to this plan of action. As Glaude wrote, his “daddy, a gruff man who has lived all of his life on the coast of Mississippi, taught [him] that fear should never be the primary motivation of my actions. It clouds your thinking, and all too often sends you running to either safe ground when something more daring is required, or smack into the danger itself.” The GOP frequently relies on the fear of the “other” — Black, Brown, gay, feminist, Arab Muslim — to get working-class Whites to vote for their candidates. But Democrats also depend heavily on their voters’ fears of an apocalyptic alternative to rally the latter into voting for their mediocre candidates. Like Glaude, most of my focus for the next three months will be on congressional races and Maryland-related issues.
For the presidency, I propose that Americans give themselves a choice for November, one that has absolutely zero chance of winning. My number one option would be for millions of Americans to vote “None of the Above” this fall. By electronic ballot, absentee ballot, Internet ballot, on a folded napkin, or on an aircraft carrier. If Americans truly want to send a message to the plutocrats in charge of US politics and the mainstream media (whether FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, or the mainline networks), then vote, but don’t vote for either Hillary or the Donald. Take this Donald’s advice and vote “None of the Above.”
But even I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that approach. “None of the Above” is really an anti-everything vote. Part of me thinks that I and millions of others may need to vote for something or for someone. Again, this something or someone would have absolutely no chance of victory in this space-time continuum. The system is already rigged.
To send a clearer message, here are some sample alternatives to think about:
1. Snoopy. Why not? He’s cool, caring, and always looks out for the little guy. Americans can be sure that he would support a minimum wage of $15 or more per hour, and would push for single-payer
healthcare. Plus, after his imaginary experiences with the First World War, Americans would know that the great beagle would discontinue this superpower’s preemptive war policies.
2. Charlie Brown. He’s a true underdog. An underdog with the presidency would be someone who cannot be bought by Wall Street or K Street, NW (the latter’s DC lobbyists’ row, by the way). Here’s someone who would push through a $3-trillion, five-year, national infrastructural spending bill in his first 100 days in office. And after years of facing football humiliation at Lucy Van Pelt’s hands, Americans could be sure that the NFL monopoly, brain-damage research, gun control legislation, and domestic violence issues would all be front-and-center in his administration.
On to more serious options:
3. Harriet Tubman. Yes, she’s been dead for 103 years. But as a truly independent-minded woman who was the ultimate symbol of defiance to slavery in all its forms, she would’ve made a better president than either the 2016 Republican or Democratic nominee. There’s also no doubt what Tubman would do about police violence toward Blacks and Latinos or where she’d stand on women’s rights. She would just keep going
4. Derrick Bell. Also dead as of 2011 (may he RIP). Bell understood — much more than most of his Civil Rights Era colleagues — that symbolic and incremental changes only serve to preserve the status quo. That a trickle of the poor and Americans of color are able to experience social mobility is the kernel of truth that envelopes the mythology that “anyone in America can make it.” That raw, naked truth about the persistence of American racism and its intertwining with social class inequalities and policies would have made him a great candidate. Certainly Bell was better equipped to address what President Barack Obama has been both too afraid to say and too unwilling (because of his conciliatory philosophy) to acknowledge in his press conferences and so-called town halls on race.
5. Lani Guinier. The critical race theorist and constitutional law professor snubbed after President Bill Clinton’s initial nomination for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in 1993 should make anyone an admirer. Guinier has many strong views on affirmative action, the politics that marginalize vulnerable populations, and on the voting process itself. If anyone could represent an anti-establishment perspective and also proscribe radical revisionary policies, it would be her.
6. Rita Moreno. Just because. And The Electric Company.
7. Serena Williams. Jesse Williams. W. E. B. Du Bois. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. James Baldwin. Sonia Maria Sotomayor. Beyoncé. All of them individually and/or collectively speak truth to power and can tear the cover off the ball when it comes to discrimination and inequalities. They’ve all exposed falsehoods and stand for something that most Americans can’t define: the freedom to be.
There are so many others I could write down as potential write-ins for the President of the United States slot come November. Folks who are my Twitter followers or my Facebook friends. People who represent beyond party and above an ideological checklist. I could certainly write myself in. But that would be too much for them, and likely way too much for me.
Americans need to do something. As for me, while I’ll put my trust in God, I also know what I ought to do. I must vote, but not for candidates who encompass so little of what I want to see in this country, now and in the future. So, beyond “None of the Above,” Snoopy, Tubman, and Sotomayor appeal to my political consciousness more so than what this solipsistic political process could ever offer.