As America Lurches Back Toward Reality, Stark County Confronts a Make-Believe Problem

When Stark County’s voting machines grew so old it couldn’t find replacement parts, its election board reached a $6.45 million deal for new ones. Then a make-believe problem intervened.

Residents pounded county commissioners with angry calls. They claimed that Dominion, the supplier whose machines are used in 26 states, was run by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. And that its machines were programmed to change votes.

They didn’t seem to notice that Chavez had been dead for seven years. Nor that Dominion is actually a Toronto firm founded to help blind people vote. Or that there’d never been any evidence of vote changing or the unauthorized use of magic. County commissioners were forced to put the deal on hold pending investigation of the fairy tale.

Consider it the latest sign of America’s regression to a childlike state, where monsters lurk under every bed, and public officials must placate citizenry tethered to the make believe.

At Dodger Stadium last week, officials were forced to halt a Covid vaccination drive when protesters blocked the entrance, believing it a sorcerer’s potion. The feds wondered what to do about the stock market as investors bet on an obsolete game store thought to have hidden, magical powers.

Meanwhile, President Bided halted work on the border wall. The Trump administration had spent $15 billion to pacify fears of a Mexican “rapist” invasion, though undocumented immigrants have half the crime rate of native-born Americans. CNN even revealed an imaginary plot to eat babies.

“Once you get to baby eating,” says a White House spokesperson, “it’s like trying to govern in the middle of a German bedtime story.”

Clinicians are unsure what caused this return to infancy. But it’s clear that America is no longer a fully functioning adult.

“Half of our brain is still capable of rational thought,” assures one psychologist. “But the other half has reverted to a prepubescent state – and may want to hold Senate hearings on the Tooth Fairy.”

Whatever the cause, experts think it’s no longer wise to nurture a child’s imagination, since it appears to be backfiring. Some fear the country is harkening back to the 1600s, when citizens believed in ghosts and witchcraft. Laments one Strongsville city councilman: “I don’t know how we’re going to get an EPA permit if we have to start burning women at the stake.”

There are officials who welcome the change. If they’re seen to be fighting against, say, crisis actors performing mass shootings, no one notices they’ve done nothing about big boy problems, such as virus spread or unemployment. But others complain that unlike real children, the semi-adult version isn’t even cute.

“We’re looking at a ‘Children of the Corn’ situation here,” says one statehouse official, noting that some fellow Republicans now fear for their lives. “You try giving a time out to an infant with pipe bombs and a semi-automatic rifle.”

No one’s quite sure how to remedy the problem. At a hearing last week, Stark County election board chief Jeff Matthews was forced to defend himself against accusations that he’s in league with a dead dictator. Matthews called the allegations “absurd,” requiring “one to suspend all critical thought."

Nonetheless, Stark has struggled to return to an adult conversation. Some suggest they simply stamp the machines with “Made in Mordor” to divert attention from Chavez. Others prefer the classic parental move known as “The Stall,” hoping the child-mob will lose interest or become distracted by cartoons.

Though the purchase deadline has passed and a primary looms on May 4, commissioners must content themselves to pretend-study the matter. "We just have a lot of questions,” says Commissioner Richard Regula, invoking his Can’t This Wait Till After Supper Dad Voice. “I’m in no big rush until we get some answers.”
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