Traffic can be terrible on Chicago expressways. There are these massive jams, and what do you do if you need to get somewhere quickly and the expressway is at a standstill? This column suggests you simply turn off your engine, step out of the car, flap your arms and fly. Not only will you get to your destination much quicker, but flying instead of driving will be an unambiguous message to those in authority at the highway department that they better get their act together and fix the congestion problem before motorists vanish into the air like so many winged birds....
What? That's impossible you say? You can't simply flap your arms and fly? Oh right, that's true. So I guess that my suggesting you do so, well, it doesn't help much. At all in fact. Indeed, it's kinda stupid, isn't it? I'm recommending an impossible course of action that, if attempted, would accomplish nothing.
There's a lot of that going around. For instance, the Chicago Tribune endorsing Gary Johnson. Which is actually worse, because I'm joking and they're not, apparently. Yes, the chances of the Libertarian former governor of New Mexico winning the presidency are marginally better than your becoming airborne by vigorous arm agitation. But not by much, and for all practical purposes it's the same.
Gary Johnson not only can't win, he shouldn't win. His sole appeal is that he's neither Hillary Clinton, who people can't stand for a variety of hollow reasons, or Donald Trump, who people can't stand because he go out and works hard to deserve their contempt every single minute of every single day.
Despite being practically unknown, Johnson still fails miserably -- the moment he gawped at the word "Aleppo," drawing a blank at mention of the epicenter of the Syrian war, is really all you need to know. Being aware of the most important international crisis of the past three years isn't just a requirement for a potential world leader, it's a requirement for a responsible resident of the world, and being that unplugged means Johnson deserves nobody's vote. There's more, but that's enough. The only thing you need to know—and some people don't—is that George W. Bush won in 2000 because independent vanity candidate Ralph Nader drew enough of the thinking vote—the alleged thinking vote— away from Al Gore. If enough people vote for Johnson, it'll happen again and Donald Trump will win.
That isn't how the Tribune sees it.
"We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote," the newspaper wrote Friday, joining the throng this election season rejecting obvious fact. "Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we're recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates."
Send a message to whom? President Trump? And what would that message be: "you won but it isn't our fault because we voted for a person who isn't you?"
A message that says, "We sat on our hands and watched people crazier than ourselves elect a bigoted, sexist, impulsive, ignorant, bellicose, tax-shirking fraud whose undeniable bad qualities are so numerous that it becomes tiring just to list them."
Or should that message be: "We voted for a Libertarian loons who wants to privatize government rather than a former senator and secretary of state who adheres to the admittedly-unpopular notion that the role of the government is to get stuff done"?
Gary Johnson is the Pontius Pilate, I-wash-my-hands vote. Doing something to make yourself feel good under the illusion that you are making some kind of statement, when what you are doing is holding your own sense of moral purity above that of the country, protecting yourself from consequences by voting for somebody who can't win. Flapping those arms and soaring away, in taking your own fantasy flight, leaving your earthbound fellow Americans to figure out the mess they're in. It's better to stay home.
How did this happen? How did the Chicago Tribune join the handful of papers in the country—the Detroit News is another— to endorse Gary Johnson? I could offer theories. But I have friends at the Tribune, so won't insult them by speculating what went wrong. I don't know, for certain. But I do know that I used to have to dig into the distant past to illustrate how out-of-touch the paper can be, remembering Col. Robert McCormick wrapping himself in the flag, urging the country to be nice to Hitler under the charmed notion that if we do then maybe he'll leave North America alone. Now I have a much more recent folly to hold against them.