With about a week left until Christmas, kids everywhere are crossing their fingers and hoping they are on Santa Claus’ Nice List.
That reminded me of a time five years ago when I was 100 percent sure I was on his Naughty List. In fact, Santa accused me of publishing fake news. No, I didn’t have an expose of one of the reindeer sexually abusing a co-worker or one of the elves wanting to date a teenager. I had accused Santa of not being real. Trust me, Santa is real, and when you get on his bad side, he can be pretty grumpy.
In 2012, I ran against Barack Obama for president. Like Mitt Romney, I also lost. In my defense, we had to keep our spending under $200 to avoid filing all of the FEC paperwork and being forced to reveal my taxes and prove that I didn’t collude with Russia to win votes. Only four years later did I find out that as long as Republicans control Congress, you don’t have to follow all of the rules.
My campaign was against the system rather than any other candidate. I had voted for Obama over John McCain in 2008 — the first time I had ever cast a vote for a Democrat for president. In 2012, it would have been a tougher choice to decide between voting for Obama again or supporting a solid Republican candidate in Romney. I liked Romney. I still do. But as a resident of Kansas at the time, I realized that it really didn’t matter which candidate I liked.
Since 1968, all of Kansas’ Electoral College votes have gone to the Republican candidate. The same is true for Oklahoma where I have lived in every other presidential election. Because of the fact that these states have a handful of Electoral College votes and everyone goes to a candidate who receives 50 percent plus one vote is unfair. Why do you get 100 percent of the Electoral College votes if you only get 60 percent of the popular vote?
That was the big compromise when the Electoral College was formed as a way to get states with smaller populations to join the new federation. They might only get a few Electoral College votes for their population, but they also received two for their Senators.
In 2012, that meant it took about 20 voters in states like California and New York to equal the Electoral College power of one voter in states like Montana and Wyoming. Because of this bargain, a system was created that allowed a candidate to win the popular vote and lose the election. I ran on the platform that the system could easily be reformed to make that far less likely. In 2016, that possibility became a reality when Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million and still won an all-expense paid trip to the White House — even expenses to play golf every weekend at his own properties, but I digress.
I was prescient enough to foresee an election being awarded to the loser, but I was not crazy enough to believe the guy from “The Apprentice” would be the one to scam the system. I wasn’t even smart enough to know that Santa Claus was real.
My campaign for president consisted of one column per week highlighting different weaknesses of the Electoral College system. In one of those columns, I talked about other official write-in candidates.
In Maryland, Santa Claus was a candidate. I thought that seemed unfair. Everyone loves Santa Claus, but he isn’t real.
“After all, Santa Claus is an official write-in candidate for president in Maryland, state elections officials say. Unlike myself, the jolly old elf hasn’t named a running mate yet,” I wrote in one of those columns. Later in the column I wondered if a vote for Santa was even legal because you could be trying to exchange a vote to move from the Naughty List to the Nice List.
Little did I know that I was taking my own name off the Nice List by disrespecting Santa and his write-in campaign. Full disclosure, I might have already been on the Naughty List, but an email I received after that column ran made it official.
“My legal name is Santa Claus, and I am a candidate for president — recognized by the Federal Election Commission,” the man said as I became the rare, lucky person to receive a letter from Santa. “Instead of misleading your readers, perhaps you should join my more than 85,000 followers on Facebook (TheSantaClaus). My slogan is ‘Restoring America’s Heart and Soul.’”
He has expanded that audience to more than 300,000 people in the past five years.
Later in his email bashing me, Santa said “Prior to my Santa years, I served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Police Commissioner, Administration, of New York City (NYPD), Director of the Terrorism Research and Communication Center (TRACC), and Member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Defense Executive Reserve.”
The news business is funny. You always think you have seen it all and then something proves you haven’t. For instance, I never expected to type the phrase, “prior to my Santa years.”
Because of how voters in the dozen states whose Electoral College votes are actually up for grabs voted in 2012, Romney would have had to beat Obama by about 3 percent to win the Electoral College. That wasn’t fair in 2012. I predicted then that a race without an incumbent made an Electoral College disaster a real possibility in 2016. I may or may not be a genius, but it didn’t take a genius to figure that out. In fact, 2016 probably made voters beyond the 48 who wrote in my name wish they had paid more attention to what I was saying during that campaign.
I know one thing I learned. I haven’t picked any more fights with Santa. Like other voters, I don’t need any more coal in my stocking.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.