Pine Nuts: Mark Twain’s Third Party

McAvoy Layne
McAvoy Layne

In his 1870 essay, “The Curious Republic of Gondour,” our mutual friend, Mark Twain, recommends a unique advancement to our present system of democratic suffrage. Twain actually expands upon the voting procedure we will be working with this November, a system that is propped-up on vast numbers of the undereducated to vote, and vast numbers the ultra-wealthy to donate.  

Twain has much loftier ideas than gerrymandering and the suppressing of voter rights. His ideas, in fact, are designed to expand our enfranchisement, and here’s how …

To beget the best possible electorate, we continue to honor, “one man one vote,” and, enhance that right by giving those with a high school diploma two votes, and those with a college degree three votes. I might like to recommend the passing of a sort of SAT exam on governance to earn another vote. Before long, educated voters will outnumber uneducated voters, and at the same time, educated voters will outweigh outsized donations from the ultra-wealthy. And, guess what? The Constitution does not say anything against adding a number of votes to a citizen’s right to vote.

Mark Twain’s Gondour did not get much traction in 1870, but Twain’s time has come. I humbly propose a third political party, the Party of Gondour, to put forth Twain’s idea of creating a class of voters that will elevate our body politic to an ethical and moral institution. I shall head-up this third party myself, unless a more qualified person volunteers to carry the Gondour banner. (I will also go back to college and get my degree to earn another vote.)

As it is, with our two-party system, I drive a friend to the polls every two years to cancel each other out. But with the Party of Gondour, it will become a contest between the two of us to see who can earn the most votes. 

Thirty-four years ago, when I first started portraying Mark Twain, I could tell people, “I’ve been dead for 78 years, but I can still vote in Chicago.” Yet today I’m reluctant to suggest that I can still vote while dead, for fear of being questioned by a poll-watcher when I arrive at the polls on the first day of in-person voting. I’m afraid I might be asked to step outside to see if I cast a shadow, because everybody knows a ghost won’t cast a shadow any more than a groundhog will cast a shadow on Feb. 2 when spring is about to arrive early.

Samuel Clemens had uncanny insight into human nature, and we could dearly use that insight in elevating our electorate to meet the exigencies of the day.

Albeit, should we fail to get the Party of Gondour up and running, I shall draw down my colors and fall back on another musing from Mark Twain, “I don’t vote for politicians, it only encourages them. Well look at it, look how difficult it is today to find a politician with morals and ethics high enough, that he will stay bought.” 

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