Democratic Underground

Held Up at the Pearly Gates
March 24, 2001
By Art Bushwald

Held Up At The Pearly Gates

The Five Supremes all mysteriously left this world at the same time and found themselves standing together in front of what looked like the gates of Heaven.

"Wow!" exclaimed Rehnquist to someone who resembled Saint Peter, "We actually made it to the Pearly Gates! May we come in?"

"Just hang on a minute," said the gatekeeper. "We're still counting the votes."

"You're counting votes?" exclaimed Scalia in astonishment. "You mean Heaven is a democracy?"

"Well, we're more like a republic than a democracy," replied the gatekeeper, "but I won't bore you with explanations about the trivial differences. Let's just say that sometimes we vote on things here. And speaking of voting, the final tallies are coming in. OK, it's official -- 51 million residents want you to come on in, and 50.5 million think you should go to The Other Place."

"All right!" shouted the Five Supremes excitedly. "Open the gates and let us in!"

"Not so fast," chided the old man as he stroked his long, white beard. "I hate to rain on your parade, but it's not quite that simple. You've heard the old expression 'The Lord works in mysterious ways?' Well, elections here can be pretty mysterious too. Just because you got the votes doesn't mean you can just come in and start playing your harp on Cloud Nine."

The old gatekeeper pulled out a map that showed some areas in blue, and a lot of other areas in red. "Things in these parts sometimes aren't decided on just an up-and-down, yes-or-no vote. You see this map? It shows our 51 special election districts. Each of these election districts has a different population, which is roughly used to determine how many votes each district gets. Now these blue areas show where our population is concentrated, and the people there voted overwhelmingly to let you in. But these lesser populated red areas... which, I should mention, occupy a far greater area on this map... voted almost overwhelmingly against you. If you further divide this map into subdistricts, you'll find that the red areas are even more dominant..."

"But more people voted for us!" protested O'Connor. "Well, that might be true," replied the Controller of the Gates, "but it's the election district votes that count. And unfortunately, you were tantalizingly close to going over the top, but didn't quite make it. All you had to do was win just one more election district, but there was a little problem there."

"What was that?" asked Kennedy.

"Well, you know that guy with the horns and pointy tail? His brother is in charge of that district..."

"Say what???" cried the Supremes in stunned unison.

"That's right, ol' Beezlebub's little brother is running the show down there. His final results show that you lost by 500 votes, with thousands of votes left uncounted."

"How can the results be final if all the votes haven't been counted?" squeaked Thomas.

"Well, they were counting the votes, but for some reason someone told them to shut down, so they did," replied the man who looked like St. Peter. "And get this -- one of the guys who used to work for ol' Beezlebub's father decided to, um, "correct" about 5000 ballots applications. It's kinda like he voted 5000 times! It doesn't take a rocket genius to know who those votes went for, eh?"

"That's not fair!" protested Scalia. "Well, maybe not," replied the wise old gatekeeper. "But if you think that's unfair, just wait until I tell you about the thousands of people who were going to cast their ballots for you, but couldn't because their polling places were suddenly changed, or they were intentionally removed from the voter lists, or their votes for you were thrown out because they both marked your name and wrote it on their ballots. "

"Don't we have any recourse?" asked Kennedy. "Well, there's the Supreme Council" said the saintly looking man. "Its nine members say they are willing to listen to an argument on your behalf based on a provision of our 14th Supreme Law, which states: "No election district... shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws."

"What the heck's that got to do with us?!" screamed Scalia.

"Beats me," answered the bearded gatekeeper. "I thought maybe you could tell me. Anyway, I should warn you there are several members of the Council who are predisposed to vote against you. One of them is looking to become the Chief Supreme Councillor, and he thinks if you were allowed in, it would spoil his chances. Another council member always votes the same way the first one does. Yet another councillor said it was 'terrible' that you were even being considered for admission."

"Of all the @$#%...!" shouted Rehnquist.

"Watch your tongue" reproached the old man. "We don't use that kind of language here."

The Five Supremes could only gape at each other in disbelief. But their silence was soon broken by the venerable gatekeeper.

"Uh oh, I got some bad news for you. The Council has made its ruling, and I'm sorry to say that they voted 5-4 to keep you out. If it's any consolation, they say you can try again in four years."

"Four years?" wailed the Supremes.

"Yes, but don't get your hopes up too high. Even if the exact opposite thing happens in the next election, don't expect the Council to take your side. Even though they pride themselves on being "strict constructionists" of our Supreme Law and don't take kindly to 'whimsical interpretations,' they say that their ruling only applies to your case, just this once."


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