Thou Shalt Not Reelect
This year, 2006, is widely described as an election year. I think it would be more accurate to call it a reelection year. This time the future of our nation will be at stake, as they say.
The voters are really angry. They are angry at both parties, at the president, and at Congress. They are sick and tired of the status quo war, high taxes, corruption, runaway spending, soaring gasoline prices, and poisoned spinach. Theyre mad as hell and theyre not going to stand for it anymore. They are demanding change in Washington. And in a democracy like our own, the voters are sovereign.
So, this November, the voters, in their awful fury, are going to rise up and send the incumbents back to Washington. Thats what they always do. This is how a vibrant democracy works.
Is there any cure for it? Yes. Thats why Im writing. When the voters have made such a hash of democracy, the only hope lies with the nonvoters.
Superficially, the nonvoters would appear to be the brainiest part of the electorate: the elite 50 per cent or so who are too sensible to bother thinking about whether to elect Tweedle-Dee or Tweedle-Dum. So they leave us at the mercy of those who imagine they see crucial differences between the two candidates clones who pretend they are diametric opposites.
Then Tweedle-Dee gets elected, and then reelected, and reelected again, per omnia saecula saeculorum. He becomes what we now call a career politician, something that would have horrified the Founding Fathers, who hoped for frequent rotation in office.
The obvious solution is for nonvoters to start voting, or for a few voters to get smart. The rule should be simply this: Never vote for an incumbent. Always vote for the challenger, even if he looks worse than the incumbent.
This would achieve several things. It would put an end to the career politician, it would nullify the power of money in elections, and it would weaken both major parties. Reelection Day would be a thing of the past.
If only a tenth of the vote regularly went against the incumbent, we would have rotation in office and the advantages of incumbency would be wiped out. The ability of politicians and, especially, their parties to accumulate power would be severely reduced. This would also mean that few politicians would be worth bribing, directly or indirectly.
After all, most elections are decided by less than 10 per cent of the vote. The regular defeat of most incumbents would be a healthy development. Let Tweedle-Dum rule for one term. Then throw him out too.
Even now, voters are by no means entirely dumb, though they are usually confused. Many of them realize instinctively that voting means choosing the lesser evil and that government is most bearable when neither party has a monopoly of power. Gridlock, with both parties frustrating each other, is the nearest approximation we have to constitutional government.
An incumbent is a man who already has more power than he should. As a rule he should be replaced at the first opportunity. The few exceptions dont matter enough to modify the rule.
The American political genius has always lain in its instinct to limit government, to divide and disperse power. The powers of the Federal Government are listed, defined, specified; some are denied to it, some are positively assigned to the states, some are distributed among the three branches. At the state level, we have similar divisions, along with county and municipal levels and their specific jurisdictions. And then there are courts and juries.
Power can always be abused, tyranny can never be entirely done away with, and some people will always see the increase and concentration of political power as progressive or at least advantageous to themselves. Maybe the best we can do is to cultivate the habit of resistance.
And one way to achieve this is to keep reminding ourselves that keeping a political office is not a sort of property right. The seat now held by Senator Tweedle-Dee is not his seat. If the people have any political right, it is the right to change their rulers, and they should exercise this right as often as they can.
Again: If only a tenth of the eligible voters determined to vote against every incumbent in every election, American politics could be peacefully revolutionized.
|Copyright © 2006 by the
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