Sunday, November 17, 2002

You Voted For What?

You know that I don't get into political analysis. So I'm not going to waste my time and yours with a long-winded column about Tuesday's election. But I do have to bring up two points, which I haven't seen or heard mentioned anywhere else.

One has to do with the results of the Congressional race in one section of Ohio.

James Traficant was thrown out of the House of Representatives in July for ethics violations -- and when Congress says you're unethical, that's really saying something. He was also tossed into a federal prison, where he's serving eight years after being convicted of bribery and racketeering. However, since the law doesn't prohibit a felon from running for Congress, even while he's in the slammer (!), he was a candidate in Tuesday's election.

No, he didn't win. In fact, he came in a distant third. But he did get 15% of the vote. That works out to more than 27,000 people. Twenty-seven thousand people who thought their best choice for Congress this year would be a convicted felon whose home address is a cell number. He'd be a good choice to represent their best interests. A man for whom "homeland security" now comes down to whether the guy next to him in the prison laundry is carrying a shiv.

Weirder still is that Traficant had a campaign headquarters -- not in the prison -- where about 40 people gathered to watch the returns and cheer him on that evening. Maybe they were hoping for Traficant to get a come-from-behind surge. Although, since he's in prison, that's probably not a phrase he wants to hear.

That tells you one of two things. Either the people in that part of Ohio are downright loopy (and the fact that they had voted for Traficant several times before was already evidence of that), or it's the ultimate public proclamation on politicians: why vote for a possible crook when you can vote for a convicted one?

But on the question of bizarre balloting, nothing beats the question of cockfighting.

If you had asked me -- or most Americans, for that matter -- whether cockfighting was still legal anywhere in the US at this point in our history, I would have bet that it wasn't. I would have been dead wrong.

After what the state's largest newspaper termed "years of emotional and legal wrangling on both sides," the fine people of Oklahoma voted Tuesday on Question 687, which asked whether cockfighting should be banned in their state.

The answer was yes, and the margin of victory -- 130,000 votes -- could be considered resounding. What's troubling, however, is that over 438,000 Oklahomans voted "no." In other words, they were in favor of cockfighting!!

One of the opponents of the measure said that he wanted to keep it legal, because cockfighting has long been a part of the state's culture. Now there's something you don't see very often -- someone using the words "cockfighting" and "culture" in the same sentence, let alone in the same legal argument!

I suppose there may be a logical explanation for that many people coming out in favor of cockfighting. It's possible they were in a hurry and didn't read the whole question -- thus never seeing the "fighting" suffix.

The people of Oklahoma and Ohio probably think that California is the land of oddballs. But until the Golden State elects Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder as its Senators, the title rests in one of the "O" states. So, Oregon, whatcha got?