Here’s a thing that’s soul-crushingly boring: electoral politics.
Well, boring isn’t the right word, because it’s all sort of important I guess? The things that happen have consequences. I’m a big fan of voting for Kodos, but even I have to admit that the choice matters. But it isn’t your choice, or my choice, or anyone’s choice. It’s just this sort of swing-state aggregate choice, where your most fervent hopes and desires are filtered through selfish, dying retirees and midwestern supper club members who proudly tell opinion polls that the only thing worse than a gay running for president is an atheist doing the same.
So it’s hard to get really invested in something that’s both completely out of your control and inevitably disappointing. A reasonable response to all of that is resignation, and resignation is boring. So politics is boring.
On this earth, anyway. But not so throughout the multiverse!
That’s the best thing about the multiverse, that things turn out differently! The Soviets win the cold war. H.L. Mencken spends weeks attempting to prove the superiority of God’s word, and William Jennings Bryan talks shit about him after he’s dead. Guy Fieri hosts Masterpiece Theater! Everything you could possibly want exists on some universe, somewhere out there. Some of those worlds closely resemble our own, and others are drastically different. So if you’re like me, and you view the upcoming presidential election as something of an insufferable death march, then take a look at how the rest of the multiverse picks their president.
Method of Picking a President: Voting
Description: Earth-414 can be definitively traced as an offshoot of our own Earth-Prime, and as a result their method for picking a president still closely resembles ours. There’s a crucial difference, and I hope you won’t begrudge me a bit of forward motion in the multiverse timestream to show you what it is.
What makes Barack Obama-414 different from the one we know is that everything our Barack Obama is accused of is true. As a natural consequence of having such a leader, voting on Earth-414 is plagued by terrible Reverse Racism. White people who travel to the polls are subject to cumbersome literacy tests. Sections of the constitution are read aloud in Black Vernacular English (aka “jive,” the official language of America-414), and white applicants are forced to take dictation using words with which they are hopeless unfamiliar.
If they cannot interpret the section they’re asked to the satisfaction of the registrar (invariably a member of the New Black Panther Party) they’re declared illiterate and barred from voting. This can be bypassed if they have a party member who will “vouch” for them, but given that Revolutionary Black Afrikan Amerikans fought so hard to install a sleeper candidate as President, few are willing to risk that progress by vouching for white voters.
Method of Picking a President: Voting
Description: Earth-415 is an offshoot of Earth 4-14, and is again not so different from our own. Whatever happened to turn Earth-Prime into Earth-414, it multiplied to turn 414 into 415, and as a result voting on Earth-415 is felons only. Anyone not convicted of a felony is legally barred from voting.
This was a massive shift in electoral demographics: overnight, 40% of the voting body became African-American. In contrast to Earth-414, white citizens on 415 are not reduced to begging privilege from an exclusionary system. They take a more direct route: the run-up to every election sees a new crop of citizens rushing out to become convicted felons in time to cast their ballot. DWI is a popular option, as fresh faced youngsters careen through the streets, throwing empty Colt 45 Blast cans at peace officers who are just doing their job. (Their job is hassling white youth.)
Due to an unfortunate confusion between “felony” and “federal offense,” mail service is suspended in the year prior to elections to save innocent postal carriers from savage beatings.
Method of Picking a President: Footrace
Description: Earth-414 is sometimes described by multiverse experts as a “bridge Earth,” an earth that helps explain how events in our Earth transition into wildly different Earths.
Unfortunately, our understanding of how we got to Earth-414 is still very limited, and so while we know that 515 is linked to 415 (and therefore 414), exactly how that came about is still unclear. What we do know, however, that Craig Romney, son of perpetually unsuccessful candidate Mitt Romney, began placing very well in the Presidential Footraces as early as 2016, the first year he was constitutionally eligible to become president. His standing continues to rise every year, although it is the subject of some court challenges. A subsection of (felon) voters have filed suit repeatedly, alleging that the young Mr. Romney holds an unfair advantage in the races, as Mormons are born with an extra ligament in their leg.
Method of Picking a President: Eating Contest
Description: Residents of E4b who can “put it away” enter local contests, and work their way up over a length of time to greater and greater stakes. One can get on the local town council just by winning an atomic wings challenge, for example, but to become President requires years of work suppressing gag reflexes and trying not to vomit. It is, some have observed, not quite so different from our own system.
Method of Picking a President: Lottery
Description: A simple lottery decides the Commander in Chief of Earth-2’s America. Because the system is self-financing (the fee to be entered is nominal, and waivers are available for those who qualify) the influence of special interests is remarkably low. It is one ticket per person, but an organized group of people can get tickets in an amount greater than their actual number.
In addition, it is an almost shockingly stable system, given that the leader of the country is literally chosen at random. The thing that makes it so is that everyone else is also chosen at random, and an effective random sample yields enough differing opinions that the machinery of government is effectively paralyzed. For every president they get who is wild about mandatory colloidal silver supplements, there’s a congress full of folks who are too busy legalizing marijuana, promoting soccer as the new national sport, or provide federal funding for vegan school lunches to really get the ball rolling on everything.
There was one hiccup in the late '80s, when the Presidency was awarded to a group of 18 office workers from Sarasota Beach, FL, who all went in on a group of tickets. The one worker who didn’t buy a ticket, a typist with a penchant for math named Scott, had this to say: “I guess it’s true: You can’t win if you don’t fill out form 11-E in triplicate, and have it notarized and filed by the deadline.”
Method of Picking a President: Fan Fiction Contest
Description: Citizens of America-17a are each permitted one story in which they imagine themselves as president. It is open to anyone capable of writing their own entry, and there is a 2500 word limit. Aside from that there are very few official guidelines, although almost all entries avoid the dull drudgery of EPA appointees and imagine themselves triumphing in nuclear staredowns, personally foiling plots of sedition, that sort of thing. Stories are judged by local panels, then regional ones, and so on until a federal panel of former presidents selects the next leader.
The last four presidents of America-17a were Jeff Adkins, a 34-year-old substitute history teacher, Susanne McCullugh, a 75-year-old retiree, Tom Thatcher, an unemployed plumber, and a sentient computer known as the Internet Born & Organized Nascent Intelligence Receptacle, or IBONIR. That may seem like a strange crop of presidents, but from what we’ve been able to gather about Earth-17a, each President was smarter, more successful, and better looking than the last.
I find the multiverse equally comforting and disheartening. By this time next year, we’ll either be examining our growing tumors and mourning the loss of the EPA or living on the run, hiding our Super Big Gulps from President Obama’s Second Term Soviet Shocktroops. I’ll be digging into a towering pile of chicken wings, hoping desperately to earn myself some free chicken wings, while on Earth-4b that could have been the start of a promising political career.