On November 3, I visited Farmington’s Community Center to vote. A national election is the one occasion when that elusive and ill-defined entity called “The American People” (TAP) takes brief and shadowy form. I enjoy joining in this ritual even though it grows steadily less plausible with all the “vote harvesting,” motor voting laws, and mail-in voting.

According our national custom the party that wins will announce that (TAP) have spoken. The winner needs to collect half the votes of the Americans who have bothered to vote plus one (disregarding fraction of “third party” votes). That done, they will tell us that TAP have spoken.

This is often disputed by the losers, who point to evidence of vote frauds, “rigging,” and resurrection of voting zombies. There is always some cheating somewhere and there will always be talk about the evidence. These debates usually go on until everyone gets bored and no one bothers to listen any more. Partisans of the losing side will always deny that the winner received a mandate from TAP. They dig up some polls showing that TAP never intended for the winners to actually govern. They only wanted the election to end. Or something. There’s no way to settle it. TAP have no address, telephone number, or e-mail. They never speak, so anyone feels entitled to speak for them.

Rep. Ilhan Omar made this rule clear. “By expanding the court,” she tweeted, “we fix this broken system and have the court better represent the values of the American people.” Here we have a woman born in Somalia, who grew up there and in Kenya, emigrated to this country in order to study how horrible it is, and settled in the fifth congressional district of Minnesota where she can spend most of her time associating with other Somalis. Sure it seems a little odd to see her explaining the values of a population which has few Muslims and fewer Somalis? Maybe so, but she has as much right to explain TAP as any other citizen, never mind an elected representative.

It’s a well-established American custom to identify the winner of a national election as TAP’s choice. It’s not true and it will never become true – not a big deal. It’s an ordinary part of the world we live in. It helps keep the peace.

Consult Webster’s Third International Dictionary starting with pseud-/pseudo- (from the Greek verb to lie, cheat and falsify) and continue all the way to pseudozoea and you can count 276 words with pseudo- prefixes in English. Most are merely descriptive but the fact remains that we live with amidst deception, delusion, and error. This can never change. TAP will be invoked repeatedly to justify one thing or another. Nothing to get excited about but a periodical reminder of its fictional character is healthy.

“Democracy, democratic” is invoked more frequently than TAP. It’s usually used as a Hurrah-word praising some program, policy, or party. It has pleasing connotations for most Americans, but has no stable, concrete meaning. It’s normally used as praise. There are two simple rules of thumb for understanding American usage. Rule One: When WE win, democracy happens. Rule Two: When those villains on the other side win, democracy fails.

Judging from past behavior, we can expect a majority of Americans (including the millions who don’t vote.) to celebrate the end of the elections because it’s the end. But we must have to wait a while for them to end because of this huge effort to expand the electorate by harvesting absentee ballots, drumming up support down to the last day, and even later, authorizing mail-in votes, easing admission to the polling booth.

John Frary of Farmington, the GOP candidate for U.S. Congress in 2008, is a retired history professor, an emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of FraryHomeCompanion.com. He can be reached at [email protected]

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