Some of us are familiar with the Gospel song, “No Not One.” The song speaks to the friendship and power of Jesus. The phrase, “No Not One” also suggests the loneliness, isolation, and the sadness of being alone.
Unlike the song, we can sometimes find ourselves without a friend or supporter who will make the situation right. As a democracy, we are given the opportunity to change our minds and change those who represent us. The hearts of democracy centers on our ability to research, examine, and determine the best candidate to meet the needs of the community. The key element is choice.
There are circumstances when a choice is no choice at all. A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one thing is actually offered. The term is often used to describe an illusion that multiple choices are available. The most well known Hobson’s choice is “I’ll give you a choice: take it or leave it”, wherein “leaving it” is strongly undesirable.The phrase is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest to the door or taking none at all. In a democracy, we believe we do have choices but choices can be very limited.
Georgia has 14 elected Representatives in the United States House, each campaigning and receiving votes in only one district. Every two years we are encouraged to vote for the candidate of our choice and send that representative to Washington, D.C. On the surface, this seems like a fair and democratic process, but in reality, we face a Hobson’s Choice. If the Atlanta Braves announced the team was coming to Waynesboro and would play a game against the Burke County Bears baseball team, we would think it outrageous. However, we would not expect to see a real baseball game. No one would bet money that the Bears would beat the Braves. If the Braves played the game as they would against any other major league team, the Bears would be lucky to get a single hit. It quickly would become an exhibition and a shameful one at that. The unfairness would loom so large that some of the fans might leave and express great sympathy for the Bears, overmatched by a professional team they should never have been playing. While this example is farcical, we often accept without question situations that are unfair, unequal, and undemocratic.
In the political area, we like to think candidates present their policies, platforms, and positions for citizens to make a decision. However, sometimes people are fooled. George Anthony Devolder Santos is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 3rd congressional district. A member of the Republican Party, Santos has made numerous false or dubious claims about his biography, work history, criminal record, financial status, ethnicity, religion, and other matters, both in public and in private. The voters of his district and the New York Republican Party have asked him to resign. Santos has not resigned and promises to run for another term.
North Carolina State Representative
Tricia Cotham who won her race as a Democrat by nearly 20 points essentially said the modern-day Democratic Party “has become unrecognizable to me. I am no longer a Democrat, but I remain a public servant. The party that represents me and my principles and the people of North Carolina is the Republican Party.” Who believes Cotham told her constituents she was no longer a Democrat when she ran for office?
In the case of Santos and Cotham, the candidates deceived the voting public. In Georgia, there is not a single contested Congressional district, guaranteeing that Democrats and Republicans will each win in their districts. Democracy is lost if our voices do not matter. We live in a ”No Not One” state where a segment of our population has no voice at all, yet we accept this patently unfair system. What would we call a country where a political party candidate was guaranteed to win with or without opposition? We definitely would not call it a democracy.