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Floyd Elliot Headshot

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

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The fact that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision paved the way for corporations and billionaires to use their wealth anonymously to influence elections has many people up in arms, from Senator Bernie Sanders and Occupy Wall Street's General Assembly to (in his slyly satiric way) Stephen Colbert and the National Rifle Association. (Actually, the NRA aren't opposed to Citizens United, but they are very much up in arms.) These people are simply missing the point. We should not be attempting to rein in attempts to buy our votes. We should be making it easier for ordinary people to sell their votes and cash in at the best possible price on an at-best underused and undervalued asset.

With a few exceptions, every citizen of the United States over the age of 18 has the right to vote, but only 24 percent of the American electorate use that right. (Do you find that number surprising? You should, because I just pulled it out of my ass. It's how I do my most interesting--and smelliest -- research.) Thus, a large majority of the American people leave idle a resource, their vote, that a small but vastly wealthy minority needs in order to maintain its stranglehold on riches and power, a horribly inefficient situation and an offense to the sensibilities of anyone with any economic feeling. The solution seems simple to me: allow the majority who have no need of their votes to sell them to those who do need them and will pay for them. Once again, the magic of the free market solves another problem like ...well, magic.

"But how would this work?" I hear you ask. "Would someone just pay me for my vote? Would I need to sign some kind of contract? Do you think I should cut my bangs?" The answer to all of these questions, including the one that starts with "how," is "Yes." By signing a contract -- a legal document -- you would make legal the transaction by means of which a campaign buys your vote, in much the same way that a contract on someone's life makes murder-for-hire legal. (It doesn't? Huh. Good to know.) Then -- and not that you'll care, because by that time you'll be living high on the hog off the $5 or $10 your useless vote netted you -- the candidate's representative will bring the contracts (less the inevitable ones irreverently signed Dick Hertz and Kizmi Balz; some people simply do not respect the solemnity of the ballot) to the polling place to cast votes for their candidate. Once vote-selling has become an established part of the electoral process, we will eliminate paper contracts and sell our votes online, allowing us to immediately trade in the proceeds for merchandise from Amazon or SkyMall, or perhaps for peppermint schnapps or vials of crack, UPSed right to our doors.

Voila! Democracy and capitalism fused together in much the same way a car crash fuses together metal and flesh. And sorry for saying "voila." I know you're American and don't understand any foreign languages.

But what kind of country would we be if we allowed the rich to buy our votes? Pretty much the same one we are now, and also one that at $5-$10 a vote has $2 billion to $4 billion more to spend. Think how this will help the economy! Amazon's and SkyMall's revenues! The peppermint schnapps and crack industries! And of course, I've simply assumed that there would be a set price for votes, but in fact the logic of supply and demand dictates that the more outlandish the candidate and the more diametrically opposed to your views that candidate's views might be, the more you should charge for your vote. Had Newt Gingrich been the Republican nominee and had he wanted my vote, he would have had to pay off my mortgage and sing "Three Little Maids From School Are We" on live television. In a tutu.

And what if you don't want to sell your vote? Well, sir and/or madam, it will still be a free country. (Actually, it's a pretty expensive country, and with Goldman Sachs messing around in the commodity markets, only going to get more so.) So if for some foolish reason you wish to pass on Mitt Romney's generous offer of one of Ann's Escalades (she'll never miss it) or Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's offer not to have you deported, that's your business.

Some of us, though, care about our country and the future of democracy. And we'll be selling our votes like hookers during Fleet Week, if hookers during Fleet Week sold their votes... and they will.

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