The title of one of the great detective’s most famous stories is The Sign of the Four, subtitled “The Science of Detection.”

Next week’s Santa Barbara election could be subtitled The Sign of the Five. The mystery being, which of five mayoral candidates will win? Pick your favorite.

Even Holmes would be baffled. Of the five, you could melt them into one and still not satisfy every voter. Me, I’m waiting until next week to mail my ballot. I agree with the curly headed blonde who walked into my front room the other day without knocking. It’s the election season, so people tend to do that.

I asked her the Holmes question: “Have you figured out the Santa Barbara election?” She wasn’t flourishing any election literature, though. (Why do they call propaganda “literature”?)

She laughed. “With this mail-in system, I always wait until the last minute to walk my ballot in. If I mail it, some scandal might erupt, and I’d regret who I voted for.”

Lots of people prefer to vote the old-fashioned way, handing the ballot to their friends and neighbors staffing the polling place, a comfy ritual that seems to assure people that not everything has changed. Soon she was off about what she considers our too-long election campaigns.

“English elections are about five weeks long.”

Not necessarily true, and many people who think they’d prefer a system as neat as a Cotswold cottage might be surprised if we switched. For one thing, Americans might not cotton to a system where a queen plays a major role.

I wouldn’t, seeing as how my ancestors fought to escape being under the royal thumb. My Brit friends reply that “the queen has no real power.” No? Well, who appoints members of the House of Lords? I think the U.S. has gotten a bit beyond the lords business.

I happened upon an Atlantic magazine piece from last October during our own presidential election. “By one measure the U.S. presidential campaign will be 597 days old on Election Day in November … Parents who were rocking a newborn when Ted Cruz declared his candidacy are now running after a toddler,” the article by Uri Friedman began.

He quoted an article by Emma Roller in the New York Times calculating that in that time frame we could have hosted “four Mexican elections, seven Canadian elections, 14 British elections, 14 Australian elections or 41 French elections.”

Between the time that Cruz announced his bid and when he endorsed Trump, France technically could have elected 39 presidents. (Thirty-nine Trumps?)

So what did we get from our last, tedious, most recent outburst of democracy? Trump. This is progress in an era of instant communications? After months of pondering the background of all the candidates, we chose a TV huckster, someone without a day of experience running any government agency (a real plus, some might say) and with an amazing ignorance of the Constitution.

There must be a better way of choosing a president. The Founding Fathers worked hard to come up with one, but that was before the era of powerful political parties.

Trump lacks, among other things, the seasoning that the best of our presidents showed: Franklin D. Roosevelt, for one, in leading the nation through the Great Depression, and Dwight Eisenhower, commander of our troops in the war of that era. Trump evaded the draft by using exemptions.

FDR had to deal with the somewhat bizarre military objectives of Winston Churchill, which included keeping the British colonies, at all cost. When Eisenhower was in the White House, he managed two terms for the most part without the kind of daily battles we find erupting in the Trump regime.

Critics who relished D.C. battles claimed that since Eisenhower seemed to be playing golf instead of raising a ruckus, we really didn’t need a president. Today, with Trump acting like King George III, the unfunny joke is, “We don’t need no stinking Congress.”

Trump is one weird dude whose main obsession seems to be erasing all traces of President Obama, and to hell with the middle class.

I was just starting, but the blonde was long gone.


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