hen contemplating our two party political system I am sometimes reminded of Quisp, the breakfast cereal I ate as a kid. Quisp was a crazy-eyed pink alien from outer space drawn by Jay Ward, the guy who did Rocky and Bullwinkle. Quisp rode in a flying saucer, wore a green space suit and had a propeller sticking out of the top of his head. The cereal itself was a crunchy sugar-filled corn confection similar to Cap'n Crunch. Quisp's nemesis was Quake, another cereal marketed by the same company, Quaker Oats. Quake was a large strapping miner who wore a cape and a hard hat equipped with a light. Television commercials for the two cereals pitted kids who supported Quisp against those who favored Quake, the brilliant part of this strategy being that while the two products were represented by contending media figures marketed to the cereal eating populace as being in opposition to one another, both were actually owned and manufactured by a single corporate interest, and aside from the fact that Quisp was shaped like little saucers that held milk and Quake like little boulders that didn't, they were in fact the exact same cereal.

ike demagogic adversaries throughout history, Quisp and Quake inveighed tirelessly over whose ideology was better suited to lead the way—Quisp was an advocate of Quazy Energy, while Quake's agenda favored Earthquake Power. But the impact of Quake's message was eventually blunted by inconsistencies resulting from an ill-advised image makeover. Initially introduced as a big burly worker with bulging biceps and a hard hat that catered to a blue collar demographic, in an effort to increase his market share Quake slimmed down, abandoned the miner's hat in favor of white gloves, white boots, and a white Australian hat with the brim turned up on one side. His rhetoric was immediately undercut by the perception of flip-flopism—was he still the working man's miner, or now a vaguely sissified cowboy from down under still touting Earthquake Power as an expedient means to an end? Ultimately Quake's base of support, which tended toward jocks and bullies, dwindled while Quisp's more geeky/nerdy constituency held fast.

n 1972, the powers that be decided it was too taxing to maintain this pitched rivalry between ostensibly opposed viewpoints in order to sell the public two different versions of the exact same bill of goods, and Quaker Oats announced an election to decide the issue once and for all. Kids were encouraged to vote for the character they wanted to see endure, and the losing cereal would be consigned to the dustbin of breakfast food history. Quisp won with 203,112 votes to Quake's 157,316. Perhaps as a nation we should consider following the example set for us by Quisp and Quake. Year after year, is it wise to pour billions of dollars of economic and human resources into pitched media battles between contrived personalities representing substantially the same interests? Limited to a choice between two entrenched political parties, it may be more efficient to just pick one or the other to run the country without all this drama, and the covert opportunities inherent in electronic voting would seem to be an important step in that direction. Democrat versus Republican, liberal versus conservative, Quisp versus Quake, Quazy Energy versus Earthquake Power—perhaps it's time we all switched to granola instead.