Divided Nation Turns to Metric Crank to Heal Wounds

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island.  Residents of the smallest state in the Union often feel like country cousins at the Thanksgiving Dinner of American politics since their vote is worth only four electoral votes for President.  “It’s a shame,” says Vin Barbuto of B&M Scrap & Salvage of Woonsocket.  “We’re the only state that has coffee milk as its state drink, you’d think that would make a great photo op on the campaign trail.”

Coffee milk: Official drink of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations


But there is hope in the air, and a feeling that 2020 might be the year that “Little Rhody,” as it is affectionately known by the other states, takes its place on the national stage.  “Favorite son candidates are usually first-ballot-and-out losers who graciously concede to better-known politicians,” says Professor McNeil Freeson of St. Lisa’s College in Swansea, Massachusetts.  “Rhode Island has a favorite son loser who should probably bow out now, to save time.”

Chafee:  “The economy, national defense–these are Mickey Mouse issues next to the metric system.”


Freeson is referring to Lincoln Chafee, the former U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island who yesterday announced he would join an already crowded field for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.   “It’s ironic but we’ll take it,” says Pawtucket Chamber of Commerce President Tom Scalzo.  “We think it’s a wonderful thing that one of our residents, when added to the other candidates, now exceeds the total population of our state.”  Chafee tells big donors that he can appeal to both ends of the political spectrum.  “He tends to poll best among very confused people,” says Freeson.  “And metric cranks.”

Chafee was the only candidate in the 2016 presidential race to make a U.S. conversion to the metric system of weights and measures part of his platform, an anomaly that some say makes him a dark-horse to pass current frontrunners in a replay of this year’s Kentucky Derby, where the apparent winner was disqualified.  “As a boy, I struggled with the ‘American customary’ system,” says Mark Mickelvene of Little Compton.  “How many rods in a foot, how many chains in a gallon–nobody can keep ’em straight.”

Sanders:  “Is this one foot?  Two feet?  A yard?  Who the hell knows!”


The metric system, by contrast, has been adopted in the overwhelming majority of countries around the world because of its simplicity, a fact that Chafee tells a group of tool and die manufacturers should make it an appealing issue.  “Any time you can take something complex and make it so simple that a person of limited intelligence can understand it,” Chafee says, “you have a winner.”

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