Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Response to How Things Sort of Work

(See: Just Above Sunset: How Things Sort of Work)

Okay, I give up. Donald Trump is right.

No, not right about everything. In fact, hardly anything.

I'm just saying he's right when he claims that our presidential nomination process is stupid and makes no sense. The picking of presidents and vice presidents should be both simpler and more (small-"d") democratic, from the get-go.

The way it works now is, you're a candidate who enters his name in his party's caucus in such-and-such state, and you win most the delegates, all local muckymucks who, it turns out, don't happen to like you one bit. But no matter, since they're only delegates to the state convention anyway, and once there, can either join any coalition that their county leadership randomly assigns them, or else the one that picked up their tab for breakfast -- but it's that group that selects the real delegates, the ones that go to the national convention and are bound to a candidate only on the first ballot, but after which are free to cast a vote for their brother-in-law.

And if you're lucky enough to make it to the general election, you could actually have most the people vote for you, but still lose the election in the electoral college. Foreigners never seem to understand that, and, of course, neither do we.

Many years ago, I read a book about presidential elections in America (it was published by Congressional Quarterly Press; I wish I could remember the book's title) that differentiated throughout between the "selectorate" -- that is, those voters who select the nominee by voting in primaries and such -- and the "electorate" -- those who vote in the general election.

What I propose is that maybe we scrap the whole "selectoral" process and cut straight to the "electoral" process. No primaries, no caucuses, no delegates, no state conventions. No parties, no states involved. Cut out all the middlemen. Boom! All gone!

Just the general election. And that should be run by the federal government, not the states. And having everybody vote all on one day obviates the problem of having otherwise good candidates drop out too early because they failed to impress the ethanol industry or most the voters of some all-white New England state. Let's face it; we've always known that this sequential state-by-state primary business distorts the process of choosing our leaders, and America should never have allowed it to start.

And while we're at it, no electoral college. Just let American citizens vote directly for their presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

The most common argument against allowing the popular vote to choose our president and vice president is that it's somehow "unfair" to the smaller states, but why should states be choosing the leadership anyway, instead of the people? The famous phrase is not that a certain candidate is "the states' choice", it's that he's the "people's choice"! In fact, elections aren't supposed to be contests that pit large states against small states, it's people who believe a certain way against other people who don't.

The states already get to pick the members of Congress and the Senate, and for too long, through "electors" chosen by the states, they've been picking the president and vice president as well. When and if the electors and the people ever happen to pick the same candidate, it's only by happy accident. In other cases, it's considered a flaw in the system. Why not just skip all the silly stuff and let the people pick their own leaders?

And then there's the political parties. When you think about it, the role of all these "private" -- that is, non-governmental -- political organizations is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, so why do we allow them so large a role in our country's governance? 

As for that question of "Who can get on the ballot?", the short answer is, "Anyone!" Still, there would have to be some sort of qualifying barrier -- maybe a certain high number of signatures on a petition. Maybe candidates could, if they so choose, designate on the ballot which political party they would caucus with, just so voters can get a general idea of their ideology.

And one positive by-product of taking the election process out of the hands of parties might well be cutting down on all the partisan gridlock that has taken over Washington.

But also, to avoid the problem we had in the election of 1800 -- back when the Constitution said the candidate for president with the second-highest number of votes would be named vice president, forgetting to specify what should happen in case of a tie -- candidates should run as a "ticket" that includes the president and vice president.

So what happens if nobody gets a majority? Then we could do what states do to whittle down the field to the top two: Have a runoff election. Another possibility is an "instant runoff" system, in which voters not only pick their first choice but their second choice, and maybe third choice; then we compute the winner from these. (To see how that works, click on that link.)

Yeah, there are real problems trying to get the country to do things the way they should have been done from the beginning, but this runaway four-year presidential season business has finally gotten out of hand. It's about time it were stopped.

We keep calling ourselves a democracy; just for fun, why not actually become one?

No comments:

Post a Comment

(No trolls, please! As a rule of thumb, don't get any nastier in your comments than I do in my posts. Thanks.)