It has long been my position that the only way to save our democracy is to start electing teens to Congress. Not just any teens, either. Mean ones. The kind of teens who can sit together for 10 minutes and promptly identify the deepest fears and insecurities of the people around them and then make all of those people cry. Think like Regina George in Mean Girls. That kind of teen. But in Congress.
My reasoning here is simple: Adults are terrified of teens. They don’t know what the teens want and they don’t know how to communicate with the teens and they are hopelessly afraid of being revealed as out-of-touch and old, because every adult has a tiny voice inside their head telling them they are “cool” or “with it,” despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. This fear is what can bring us together. Fear reaches across the aisle. Politicians will be less likely to tell obvious lies and engage in chicanery if they know teens will be allowed to roast them on the floor in front of everyone. I know this. I’m sure of it.
Think of it this way. Picture, say, Paul Ryan. Anyone politician in either party works, but Paul Ryan has power and is crafting big policy initiatives, so we’ll start here. Let’s say Paul Ryan gets up in front of the House to pitch his latest plan to cut taxes and Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s say he thinks it went very well. Suddenly, from the back of the room…
“LOL how you gonna pay for that?”
“Yeah you washed-ass mayo sandwich.”
“Men’s Wearhouse-wearing bitch.”
“Why are your eyes so close together?”
“Yeah, nice face, close eyes.”
And so on. He’ll bang his little gavel, of course, but any high school lunch monitor will tell you that this kind of thing only makes it worse. You don’t antagonize the teens.
“Aww, Cwose Eyes has a wittle gavel.”
“Can’t hold a full-size gavel, Close Eyes?”
“Hold still, Close Eyes. I want a clear picture of your weird face for Insta.”
And five minutes later Paul Ryan will shout “THEY’RE NOT THAT CLOSE TOGETHER” and run out of the room without calling for a vote. It’ll be just the shock to the system we need. Official statements will have to be crafted with extreme care because, while you may be able to distract the news media, a mean teen never forgets. Never. Lobbyists will have to try to woo them out of fear they’ll tank a bill without even looking up from their phones. It’ll keep everyone honest. Honest and terrified, like all politicians should be. We’ll have to put in laws that only allow for 2-3 teens to serve at once, just to keep it from devolving into Lord of the Flies. And we’ll have to run it like Menudo where you’re out at 18, because teens start getting soft around that age and we need them at their most ruthless for this to work.
I bring all of this up now for one simple reason: It is happening. Kind of. Allow me to direct you to this article from NPR, delightfully headlined “Kansas Scrambles To Change Rules After 6 Teens Enter Governor’s Race.” Let’s have a look:
“Under Kansas law, there is no law governing the qualifications for governor, not one,” Bryan Caskey, director of elections at the Kansas secretary of state’s office, told The Kansas City Star last year. “So there’s seriously nothing on the books that lays out anything, no age, no residency, no experience. Nothing.”
So into the race jumped Jack Bergeson. Calling himself an anti-establishment candidate, 17-year-old Bergeson is pursuing the Democratic nomination, advocating for a $12 minimum wage, legalization of medical marijuana, and high-speed rail for major cities in the region.
The only small drawback here is that this particular teen appears to be more of a civic-minded, student council-type than I had in mind. But this is where you say, “Wait… didn’t that headline say six teens have entered the race?” And now this is where I say “Yupppppp.” Five other teens followed’s young Jack’s lead and now the governor’s race in Kansas features a few adults and a half a dozen teens. The adults are hopelessly outnumbered. And the best part? Kansas can’t kick them out of the race with a new law because the person who would usually get to work on that, the Kansas Secretary of State, is also running for governor, and it would stink to high heavens if he just started passing laws to kick his current competitors out of the race. Therefore, any law restricting entry by age won’t take effect until after the November elections. This means three things:
- The teens can run
- There must be a debate
- Someone must put the full debate on YouTube so I can watch flustered gasbag career politicians attempt to maintain something resembling decorum while they get roasted in stereo by their teen challengers
This is perfect. Well, almost perfect. It could still use… something. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe if I keep scanning the article…
The state’s lack of rules for candidacy are so profound that Caskey could not even find a rule limiting the field to human candidates.
“[A] dog has never tried to file,” he told the Star last year. “I don’t know what would happen if one tried to.”
Putting aside how massively insulting this is to teenagers as a whole (“What? A bright high school student wants to get involved in public policy? Well why don’t we just elect a dang lamp?”), the answer here is obvious: I would like it. That’s something that would happen if a dog filed as a candidate for the Kansas gubernatorial campaign. I would like it very much.
A dog governor in every statehouse and two vicious teens in the back row of every legislature to keep our politicians in a state of constant terror. It’s our only hope.