As polarization and divisive partisan rhetoric erode trust in American democracy, one political science expert has proposed a new way of choosing governing officials, inspired by Hope College’s longstanding tradition known as the Pull. Democratic elections would be replaced by a massive, threehour tug-of-war competition between Democrats and Republicans. The party that holds the most rope at the end of the contest will lead the nation’s government. “The old system of voting just doesn’t work in 21st century America,” said political scientist David Vanzoop in an interview with the Anchor. “The public feels disconnected from their governing elites, and elections don’t have legitimacy anymore. That’s why we’ve proposed this new approach. What could be more legitimate than a three-hour spectacle of pain, screaming and brute strength?”
After extensively studying the Pull at Hope College, Vanzoop published his paper this week. According to his theory, constituents will feel more loyalty toward officials after watching them groan in agony for hours in a muddy trench. “At Hope, students seem to really admire the pullers,” said Vanzoop. “I mean, some of them are just really freaked out by the whole thing, but most of them are impressed.” He explained that the Pull brings the school together, a concept that he hopes could translate to greater national unity in an era of divisive politics. “Every year, the Pull draws a huge crowd,” said Vanzoop. “Students feel really invested. People just don’t care about politics right now— look at our voter turnouts over the last few election cycles.” Replacing elections with a Pullinspired competition, Vanzoop claims, would heighten interest and involvement in politics.
“Of course, the public would no longer have any say in choosing their leaders and legislators, but the whole event would definitely be more exciting than filling out a ballot.” Vanzoop acknowledged concerns about voters’ inability to have a real influence in these types of competitions. “Lots of people have told me this isn’t a democratic solution since the people aren’t actually selecting the leaders that they think are most qualified to run their country,” said Vanzoop. “But how much did your vote actually matter in the first place with the whole Electoral College situation messing things up?” He also explained that citizens would still have a way of making a difference under the new political system. “What critics forget is that while you can’t cast a vote for the candidate of your choice, you can definitely scream encouragement and chant your favorite political slogans at them while they pull.”
When I interviewed students about Vanzoop’s ideas, the response was mostly favorable. “Voting is pretty depressing now,” said one sophomore. “Your vote barely counts, and it’s hard to know if the candidates will stand by their original positions. But if parties had to compete in a brutal challenge of strength and endurance every election cycle, that would at least be more fun to watch.” Others agreed. “Our representatives right now only got elected because they had a lot of money,” said a senior. “Replacing our current system with a tug-of-war would really level the playing field. You wouldn’t need to be rich or manipulative or connected with the right lobbyists to be chosen to lead this country. You would just need to be totally ripped.”
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