Unless you have no Facebook friends or you never watch the news, you probably know something about all the attention given to recent statements by Chick-Fil-A's founder Don Cathy about marriage. A quick recap is in order for the uninitiated. Don Cathy said he is in favor of traditional marriage. Some people didn't like that. Other people did. The first group organized a boycott. The second group organized a day of patronage to show their support. With all the attention the story has been getting in both local and national news, on Facebook and Twitter, you would think that the U.S. had just entered World War III. (Hey, speaking of war, don't we still have some troops, like tens of thousands in one of those countries in the Middle East? I don't seem to hear much of anything on the news about them these days. Was it Kyrgyzstan? Hmm... no, that doesn't sound right. Uzbekistan? No. That's not it. But I'm getting close. I'm almost certain it was a "stan"...)
Anyway, for whatever reason, this seemed to become the most important political news of the day. Move over, Florida. Forget you, Ohio. We have a new bellweather to measure voter intensity and all the political headwinds, and the drama is palpable. People on the right are buying chicken nuggets. People on the left like Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel counter by stating that Chick-Fil-A doesn't fit "Chicago values" and should look elsewhere when considering where to build.
I'll admit that at first glance, I felt the whole thing was somewhat ridiculous. Don't get me wrong. I understand that the legal definition of marriage is a serious issue, but it just seemed to me that, for the most part, the definition of marriage is not decided by what saturated fats we choose to boycott or digest. Decisions about this kind of stuff are usually made by voter initiatives, or in state legislatures, or by judges in a courtroom. Couldn't people see that the fight for marriage was never going to be decided at a fast food restaurant?
And that's when it hit me.
What if it could be? What if fast food restaurants could be the key to ensuring vigorous voter participation?
After all, I can't recall ever seeing this level of enthusiasm during legislative debates about whether or not the President can arrest American citizens without pressing charges. The lesson is simple: Give people a hamburger, and they will be happy. Have a politician pontificate on the merits of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve, and you'll lose them; their eyes glaze over, and they start to nap. (Can't really blame them, though. You did just give them a big, greasy hamburger, remember?)
So here's the proposal. What if, instead of wasting all that time studying out the candidates and the various party platforms, we just decided elections by the fast food restaurant with the best sales? Why let Chick-Fil-A have all the fun? You're a strong supporter of gun rights, you say? Don't worry about reading up on the latest gun control proposals. Enjoy a hearty lunch at Texas Roadhouse. Perhaps you are fervently pro-choice. No need to wave a sign. Just make sure to choose Burger King next time you need a quick bite. (Have it your way, it's been said.) By attaching a single issue to every single restaurant, we can completely eliminate election day altogether, as each establishment's profitability will tell us how the voters feel. You might counter with the fact that there are a lot of important issues. Well, what did you think we have all these restaurants for anyway?
Of course, we'll attach the less important and less glamourous issues to less visible restaurants. If you don't think the President should have the power to assassinate American citizens overseas, you'll have to look up Mike's Taco Shack. Do you think the U.S. could actually bring our troops home and close some of the 900+ bases we have around the world? You'll get to dine at a lovely little food court in Evanston, Wyoming. You see the system? The more politicians that seem willing to discuss a given topic, the more well-known the restaurant the issue gets linked to.
Just imagine. Instead of a disaffected voting populace and participation rates that hover below fifty percent (and worse in off-year elections), we'll see political participation skyrocket, especially if the statistic is true that says the average American eats fast food twice a week.
Some might oppose this system, believing that not only will our politicians still be ignoring issues of substance, we'll also be adding insult to injury by eating ourselves to death just to state our opinion on the latest political sideshow. That's actually part of the point. When you think about it, how much difference is there really between our two major parties' nominees for president? Besides for tax rates, there's not a lot of disagreement. Bailouts, mandates, wars declared by Presidents and not Congress, support of the Patriot Act, more spending for either the military or for entitlements, and no credible plan to balance the budget in the near future. As it turns out, despite passionate arguments to the contrary, McDonalds and Burger King are quite similar as well. But people don't really need to eat different food all the time. They only need to believe they are.
That's why I propose the restaurant-voting system. It's cheap, requires little effort, and rewards voters with a full stomach. No more time wasted on finding politicians who actually believe what we say we believe. Just a #5 to go and a couple of ketchup packets. It won't be long before voters everywhere will be heard to say, "I'm loving it."