Government Proposals A New System For Elections Part 1

About a government proposal to restructure our Presidential elections.


Why We Have Poor Presidents--An End to Party Politics

Because our system of representative democracy is so promising, it deserves our most serious effort to make it better. Surely the twinkle of time since independence from Britain should not delude us into thinking we have shaped a system that cannot be improved.

Many people feel unable to do anything that will significantly influence their destiny. The trauma of detachment, which for many people results from living in oversized cities, where they perform depersonalized and highly specialized work while being serviced by apathetic government bureaucracies and profit-oriented business monoliths, is made worse by the operation of the party system; parties increase the individual's feeling of isolation and ineffectiveness.

My proposal for revitalizing our electoral process is offered out of a deep conviction that party politics is passe and in the hope that this will provoke additional recommendations for worthwhile reform.

Americans do elect representatives to Congress, and every voter has a chance to judge the legislators and, if satisfied, can reward them with a new term. But the people rarely have the opportunity to elect delegates to national party conventions.

This reinforces my conviction that the congressional caucus, the method used to nominate presidential candidates before the rise of party politics, was essentially the correct one. It produced a generally fine group of candidates, utilized an already existing apparatus, and ultimately was accountable to the electorate.

However, rather than having congressmen of like political persuasion retreat into private meetings to negotiate a caucus nominee, I propose that Congress openly exercise its power to nominate.

Every four years, after summer recess, all members of the Senate and House would sign one petition for any American they think should be president. Any person receiving 5% of these signatures would be considered nominated.

At this point there might be as many as 20 candidates reflecting all shades of opinion. Most voters would find in this group a candidate whose opinions somewhat closely represented their viewpoint, a situation so rare in recent elections that a majority of citizens have been forced to cast their ballot for the one of two men they distrusted least.

The campaign in which this multitude of nominees would run would last six weeks, a week longer than the British elections. It would be conducted exclusively on television and radio, since almost everyone can be reached directly by those media. The exhausting tedium of frenetic travel and the wastefulness of rote speeches to restless crowds would be ended.

All costs would be paid by the U.S. Treasury. Private contributions would be outlawed.

The election would take place, as is now customary, at the beginning of November. There would no party labels camouflaging the names of this legion of candidates.

Central to the election is the appearance on the ballot of two identical lists of nominees. You'd first vote for president by pulling a lever under List #1. The computerized voting machines would automatically block out that candidate's name from List #2. You'd then pick someone else for vice-president from List #2.

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