I don’t want to get too sophisticated with my analogies here, but it seems that America is currently undergoing a 320-million-man, no-holds-barred political battle royale. Gone are the days of refereed one-on-one matches where Republicans and Democrats suplexed each other over taxes then played nice over religious freedom. Now, it’s an every-man-for-himself melee where we all beat and bludgeon each other without reprieve or rules.
Democrats vs. Republicans. Right Wingers vs Alt-Right Wingers. Liberals vs Insufficiently Liberal Liberals. Neo-Cons vs. Whatever Rand Paul Is. Trump vs. Anti-Trump. Anti-Trump vs. Anti-Anti-Trump. And, of course, Anti-Anti-Trump vs. Spam-Spam-Spam-Anti-Trump-Spam-Spam-Spam-and-Spam. Everyone gouges some eyeballs. Everybody swings the folding chair. And nobody is happy.
There’s a better way. This barbaric hatred is beneath us, and call me a Pollyanna, but I truly believe it’s not too late for us to start hating each other like civilized human beings again. And if we want to do that, there’s one quick and easy way to make it happen. My fellow Americans, it’s time for us to fight about Grover Cleveland.
Yes, Grover Cleveland
“Why Grover Cleveland,” you ask? The answer is simple. It’s clear that we have to unleash our hatred on each other, but it’s also clear that doing so over critical issues only poisons our political discourse and further divides us. So the least destructive way for us to vent our hostility is to fight about something that doesn’t matter and that none of us actually cares about. If we waste our most heartless accusations in a pointless debate, we’ll only have respectful words left when it’s time to argue over important stuff. And if we want to find the perfect unimportant political issue to kill each other over, Grover Cleveland gives us exactly what we need.
We say that Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States, but he’s only the 44th man to occupy that office, and we have Grover Cleveland to thank for the inconsistency. First elected in 1884, Cleveland barely lost his bid for reelection to Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Harrison’s economic policies, however, were unpopular enough to flip enough states for the New York Democrat in their 1892 rematch.
Because Cleveland became the first (and, to date, only) U.S. president to serve non-consecutive terms, nineteenth-century Americans asked themselves a question: “Are we counting presidents or are we counting presidencies?” They settled on the latter, opting to count President Cleveland as both the 22nd and the 24th president. And because this is a political issue of absolutely no importance whatsoever, it’s high time we reignite this debate and tear each other to shreds over it in order to be a bit kinder the next time we discuss something that actually matters.
For Starters, the Two Sides Are Easier to See
The debate is an easy one to have, with compelling arguments on both sides. Single Counters can say, “From the beginning, Americans always counted presidents, not presidencies. The decision to change course midstream and count Cleveland twice was made by a thoughtless mob and anyone who continues this error is mathematically incompetent, unfit for public office, and a threat to America’s children.”
Double Counters can respond with some stupid “blah blah what about this” argument that’s not even worth listening to because they’re all mathematically incompetent, unfit for public office, and a threat to America’s children.
Think of how beautiful it would be to watch Congress fight about whether President Trump is announced as the 44th or the 45th president at the next State of the Union address. If our leading political figures used up all their chest-thumping and grandstanding on that issue, when it came time to vote on a Senate health care bill or real budget, they’d only have enough strength to crawl into Capital Building, vote “yay” or “nay,” and then fall asleep on the north wing carpet before they could call anyone a murderer.
Think of how much it would help our political discourse for our nation’s leading hot-takers to rile us up about the mustachioed POTUS instead of something that matters. “Common Core Snowflakes Count Cleveland Once Because They Hate America,” Drudgebart could declare. “Actually, Counting Cleveland Twice Isn’t Tradition, It’s Male Privilege” Voxfeed could respond.
If we beat each other senseless over this issue, we won’t have the strength to insist that the next budget will either prevent another 9/11 or kill half of America’s diabetics. We’ll only have enough energy to say, “I think those of a different political ideology are wrong due to some faulty assumptions.”
It’s Too Hard to Actually Change Our Character
Some may find my plan unrealistic, claiming that there’s no evidence in either human psychology or human history that fighting over inconsequential things makes us less likely to fight over consequential ones. While this argument may appear to have merit on the surface, it’s important to remember that most of those who believe this are also fascist Double Cleveland Counters who deserve to be driven into the Canada wilderness and pelted with their deceitful history textbooks.
Furthermore, some (like me) might argue that the only legitimate way for Americans to develop less vitriolic political discourse is for our nation to undergo a much-needed spiritual transformation. After all, only love can overcome hate and, until we know the love of God, we’ll never truly be able to love each other.
But spiritual transformation requires going to church, reading the Bible, believing in Jesus, repenting, forgiving, and praying constantly. In other words, spiritual transformation is a way too hard and time-consuming, so the Cleveland Plan is our only legitimate option to end our political battle royal.
Americans have long believed that we can build a better tomorrow by trusting in the president of today. This strategy has failed us time and time again. And since we’re not going to stop trusting in princes any time soon, it’s time for us to put our trust in a president of yesterday, in particular one who died 109 years ago. To fight fairly over things that matter, we need to fight dirty over things that don’t, and Grover Cleveland’s non-consecutive terms have given us the meaningless melee that we so desperately need.
So, for the good of your community, scream about Grover Cleveland every time your neighbor calls Donald Trump the 45th (or the 44th) president. For the sake of your children’s future, donate their college funds to any politician who promises to introduce (or oppose) the Restoration of Proper Presidential Counting Act. For the sake of American unity, let’s call each other terrorists for saying that Grover Cleveland is (or isn’t) the 22nd and the 24th president of the United States.