Can A Network Run For President?
Written by Timons Esaias
Edward Ludd started a Constitutional crisis by a simple act: declaring that his online persona, GunZ&Doses, intended to run for President of the United States in 1996. "I, Edward Ludd, am not running," he disclaimed. "Only the persona GunZ&Doses is a candidate. If he's elected, I will not serve."
While GunZ&Doses, whose platform includes a "return to the ideals of the American Revolution: cheap whiskey and black-powder muzzle- loaders for all," is considered a long shot for the Republican nomination, he is thought to have a good chance for VP. "An online persona can't be any more robotic than Gore," points out one political observer, "and it would cut way down on the cost of Secret Service protection."
But how do Americans feel about the idea of having a fictional personality just a heartbeat from the Presidency? "Well, it wouldn't be the first time," said a long-time citizen, taking a break between soap operas. She reminds us that "Spiro Agnew was a figment of the paranoid liberal media's diseased imagination. If he'd been real, he would have become President when Nixon quit with honor."
The GunZ&Doses candidacy makes the point that having online personas in public office is very tempting. "My online persona, er, 'handle' is a much more consistent and tough-minded individual than I am," said Walter de la Puce-Pennyroyal, New Hampshire State Chairman for the GunZ&Doses campaign. "If I were President, it would take twenty years to balance the budget. Online, I could do it in eighteen months. GunZ&Doses is planning to do the job in less than a year, and that's the kind of decisiveness that America needs right now."
Not only would fictitious candidates be stronger, they are distinctly harder to bribe, assassinate, or seduce. "You can flame them, of course," notes Puce-Pennyroyal, "but it's hard to make them feel real pain." There is the additional advantage that online personas could travel all over the world to state funerals, economic summits and so forth without taking days to do it or tying up expensive airplanes and security details.
Carping critics have, however, suggested that the whole thing may be illegal. "The Constitution clearly states that a candidate has to be at least thirty-five years old, and GunZ&Doses was 'born' about three years ago," is how one fussy nitpicker put it. There is sure to be some interesting litigation over whether the age of a fictional character can be just as fictional or not, but the controversy has already sparked two more innovative suggestions.
The first is based on Supreme Court decisions that corporations were "persons" under the laws, which is what allowed them to attack unions under the anti-Trust laws. When IBM executives were discussing the GunZ&Doses candidacy, it occurred to them that Big Blue would stand to benefit enormously if it were President. "We would be Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces!" someone is said to have shouted, and the company's expensive legal department has been working the idea ever since.
While the concept of a corporation in charge of a huge military force may seem strange to modern Americans, it's really just a return to sound business practices of an earlier era. "The British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company had armies and navies," says historian Annie Bromide, "and they spearheaded the largest financial expansion since the Roman Empire. When corporations laid down their arms it started the whole slide toward liberalism, moral depravity, and the designated hitter in baseball."
Not to be outdone, more than a hundred large businesses and corporations are planning to run for House and Senate seats in '96 and '98. "All the real work in this country gets done by businesses, not individuals," claimed a campaign worker for National Cash Register. "So why shouldn't businesses represent us, rather than individuals?"
They certainly couldn't be any worse.
Still, America is a land of herdlike individualists, and corporate candidacies just don't answer the average Joe's or Moira's need to be recognized and feared. "Radio call-in shows and TV talk-back sessions are useful in an impotent kinda way," notes Niles Long, whose modest proposal is likely to completely change the American political netscape, "but there's only limited satisfaction in complaining about folks you don't like. But being able to tax them, or draft them, or have them arrested for National Security reasons...well, that's another thing entirely."
Mr. Long's suggestion, which will reverberate through the dusty halls of history for centuries to come, was to run an entire computer network for the Presidency. Within hours, the subscribers to America Online boldly took up the challenge. They already have petition drives well under way in 47 of the 50 States, and in Quebec (just in case matters there take a sudden turn to the South). "America Online will take participatory democracy to a new level, by making the next Presidency a participatory Executive," said a company spokessuit.
Not to mention that it will make America Online the place to be for modem-wielding modernites. Rumors indicate that a Lincoln Bedroom Interactive area is already being designed.
Network for President in '96
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