Jewish World Review Oct. 20, 1999 /10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Mentally ill can help us understand politics
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY has discovered an untapped source of support -- a
constituency attuned to both its philosophy and goals: mental patients.
A front-page story in the Oct. 13 New York Times heralds the Mental Health
Voter Empowerment Project, which seeks to create, "a nationwide constituency
of people with mental illnesses by locating potential voters -- whether in
hospitals, at advocacy events, in housing projects, clinics or support
The project will focus on enrollment, education and getting new voters to
the polls. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.6 million
Americans have serious mental illnesses (manifested by such bizarre beliefs
as the conviction that Bill Clinton did not commit perjury?).
Here is an interest group in the making. Give me your schizophrenics, your
paranoids, your manic depressives, yearning for -- what? Well, politicians
who understand "mental health issues" and support "better services" (more
government spending), the story discloses.
Just what the republic needs, another minority to which politicians can
pander. Gov. George W. Bush will want to address their next convention and
assure them that compassionate conservatives care about their issues, too.
Al Gore will pledge to put psychos in his Cabinet -- following the example
of the man he wants to succeed.
The Times conjectures that the project might serve as a watchdog, for
instance, by alerting members that a politician had referred to the mentally
ill as "mentally deficient."
The result could be a new sensitivity. No longer will a candidate call his
opponent's proposal "just plain nuts!" or charge that "only a lunatic could
support" certain measures. Expressions like "detached from reality" and
"delusional" would also be banished from the political debate.
Why shouldn't the the mentally ill vote? There have been persistent efforts
to register the homeless, on the theory that people who don't work, or have
a permanent address or responsibilities (and many of whom are addicts,
alcoholics or crazy to boot) can make important contributions to the
This is the reductio ad absurdum of democracy -- everyone's vote counts.
The man who works 60 hours a week to support his family and the bum who
stands on a street corner with his hand out; the immigrant who uses a
bilingual ballot because he can't read English and the businessman who
provides employment for hundreds of people; the citizen-activist who's
thoroughly conversant with the issues and the person who not only believes
the CIA covered up the so-called Roswell landing, but that he was on hand to
greet the aliens -- all stand on an equal footing.
The mentally ill may be uniquely qualified to understand American politics,
which increasingly seems in serious need of physical restraints.
Both parties prattle about saving Social Security, a Ponzi scheme doomed by
Programs that deny some people jobs or educational opportunities based on
race are celebrated as moves toward equality.
Guns are blamed for crime. Poverty is blamed for crime. Everything is
blamed for crime, except criminals.
After losing the last two presidential elections with mushy moderates, the
GOP is poised to nominate Gov. Bush, a candidate who makes his father seem
firm and Bob Dole look principled by comparison.
Due to a misinterpretation of the Constitution, the name of G-d can't be
spoken in our public schools. But thanks to sex education, third-graders are
learning to say "anal intercourse."
This spring, the United States bombed the hell out of a country that hadn't
attacked us, wasn't menacing our allies and posed no threat to our national
Once again this year, Clinton issued a proclamation for National Character
Perhaps the mentally ill can explain this to the rest of us.
The Times piece opens by relating the experience of a Houston woman who's
had a mental illness for 35 years. She wanted to vote for Clinton in 1996
but had an anxiety attack on the way to the polls.
It closes with an account of a New York man who has been repeatedly
hospitalized for manic-depression. He plans to vote by absentee ballot next
year and favors Al Gore. Figures.
Let me be the first to wish the Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project
success. At last, politicians can have the support of their
JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.
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©1999, Creators Syndicate