Now that Election Day has come and gone, voters in most American jurisdictions are breathing happy sighs of relief. Not only did they get to exercise the franchise – an honored civic responsibility – they also get some respite from the seasonal barrage of vile campaign advertising.
I feared we would not be as lucky here in Georgia. In our state, a candidate must poll a majority of the vote to win election, which means runoff elections are necessary to decide close races. A plurality alone won’t do the job… which meant that there was a considerable likelihood of a runoff election being necessary in our gubernatorial contest.
And that, alas, would have meant another four weeks of nastiness, backbiting, and mudslinging between the Scumbag Crook and the Lying Sack of Shit.
Civility in public discourse has become an endangered species in our great Republic… but I have a way to restore it. Enhance it, even. A modest proposal, if you will, that would provide a much-needed shave, haircut, shampoo, and massage to the Body Politic.
Once upon a time, when a gentleman’s reputation was called into question by a rival, said gentleman had the option – nay, the responsibility – to defend his good name on the Field of Honor by challenging his rival to a duel. Swords, pistols, or other weaponry would be used to settle the matter; depending on the terms agreed between the parties, the fight could be to first blood, to the point where one or more parties could no longer continue to fight, or to the death. The objective was generally not so much to kill the opponent as it was to gain “satisfaction,” restoring honor by showing oneself willing to risk one’s life for it. Thus was redress achieved: by personal combat, not through the bloodless agency of the courts.
While technically illegal in most jurisdictions, dueling was socially accepted. Participants were rarely prosecuted and even more rarely convicted.
My proposal is simply this: that participants in elections be permitted, even strongly encouraged, to use the Code Duello as a means of seeking redress from opponents who insult them.
Your electoral rival says you’re a thief? Challenge him to derringers at dawn. You broadcast an ad that says your opponent is soft on illegal immigration? If he chooses, he can throw down the gauntlet and duke it out with you with the pointy piece of metal of his choice.
Politicians will have a lot less time to sling mud if they’re busy sharpening up those long-neglected fencing and shooting skills. And there’s no downside, as far as the public is concerned… because a politician who declines a challenge shows him – or herself – to lack the honor requisite for holding public office. If one should accept and get blown away, why, that’s one less mudslinging politician. A win-win!
Office-seekers whose campaigns focused on their own achievements rather than on the supposed flaws of their opponents would have nothing to fear. Only those who revel in the Negative Campaign would be at risk from a (mostly justifiably) pissed-off rival.
The more I think about it, the better I like it. What say you?