We need a new amendment to our glorious but self-admitted work-in-progress we call The Constitution of The United States of America. Specifically, we need to whack this whole incumbent president thing.
We only got it half-right when we bounced FDR by limiting the boss to two four-year terms. It seemed good at the time, but nowadays it’s wreaking havoc. Most people will agree that every president wastes a good year to 18-months of his or her first term campaigning for the next one. They’re wrong. I say, and I think recent history demonstrates, that the entire first term is blown with the foreknowledge of guaranteed incumbency, especially in a heinously bi-partisan system such as ours. Worse, in the unfortunate case of re-election, at least half of the second term is biased by the knowledge that it’s the proverbial last hurrah. Split the difference, you may get 2 good years.
Let’s face it, we know four-year presidents can’t get jack done. It takes at least two years for fiscal reforms to be relevant, at least 18-years for educational reforms to be noticeably effective (or ineffective as the case may be), and who knows how long for foreign policy. It’s even vaguer for Federal Justice Appointees. Sure, you can appoint a judge in your first term as President, but who really knows when and on what issues that justice will decide? It’s a crap shoot, you only know if they lean conservative or liberal, but you have no idea what cases they’ll hear and what ramifications their adjudication will have. Four-years is next to useless. Just ask Jimmy Carter, that’s all he got. And that’s why Bush whacked Iraq so quickly, Cheney knew it was going to take time for that little gem to reap benefits.
Re-elected presidents can get things done you say? The hell I say. Not in a pure bi-partisan system at any rate. Every single second-term president has sucked. Take a look, challenge me if you like. They all try to cram in the pieces of their agenda that congress stalled them on and that their own re-election campaigns diverted them from. And once the second term gets going, election year hits again, congress really starts jacking things up and they’re too busy campaigning for their legate. They’ll do anything to get a legacy-bill passed. They may even take a crack at Middle-East peace during recesses in their federal perjury trials.
It’s a sham, but fortunately I have the roots of an amendment that will solve it. One minor change, one major. First, eliminate multiple terms, and remove the four-year limit. Give the president one eight-year term. He or she might get something done. Many of us who lack patience will oppose this, of course, eight years of Clinton being what it was to Clinton haters, and the thought of four more years of Bush terrorizing his opponents. But here’s the whip: we must also dissolve the executive ticket. You run alone. No Mini-Me. How do we elect a Vice President? The candidate who comes in second is automagically named VP.
Beautiful, ain’t it? Think of it. In the most recent election, it would have been Bush-Gore (assuming a one-time exemption for Gore from the re-election prohibition, he was a useless VP anyway). So much less grief, so many more possibilities. And Dean, Kerry, Lieberman, etc., wouldn’t be obliged to commit all these recent atrocities upon each other. It’s a charade, it’s in shambles. The most intelligent vote in 2004 looks more and more like another abstention. [Insert angry diatribe on non-voting here.]
This whole president thing is out-of-whack, not because of bad candidates, but because of our own self-indulgence. He or she is too visible, and we are too eager to see our own reflection. We, the worlds supposed foremost example of self-governing, voting out of ignorance and misbegotten fears that an individual ticket is going to destroy our country when almost everybody else (including you and me) do more damage in a month then the chief executives can in four years. Didn’t Clinton undo all that Reaganomic, neo-nazi evil? That’s what the DNC said during Gore’s run. And isn’t Bush well on his way out of the deep, dark recession that frat-boy Clinton caused when the party crashed and the bubble burst? The G.O.P says so.
I say bunk. The Wizard of Greenspan was behind the curtain the whole time and there’s no way back to Kansas. Click your heals 3-times and say “There’s no pres like [Insert Fave Candidate Hear]”, but you’re kidding yourself, it won’t fix the country.
We’d be better off to cut him or her down to size, give them 8 years and second place gets VP and some checks and balances. All of us shallow people would have at least one politician in the executive branch that reflects our own self-important views, and thoughtful, intelligent people would have a Pres/VP combination that might be able to do their actual jobs: working together to execute our federal government.
Alas, in 2004 I'll try to get excited enough to sort out all these bullshit-bearing, short-term fund-raising Republocrats and vote for one, but I can't kid myself into thinking it will make one bit of difference.
Maybe it's you, maybe it's Dan. Things aren't quite the way they should be. And now it seems Dan's peace of mind has come up for the bidding, and those that he respects and trusts must all have been just kidding. Dan's little world has lost control, but still it keeps on spinnin'...
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1.28.04 @ 1:21p
Wait, If you have a Republican president/vp and a Democratic congress - nothing gets done. But if you have a Republican president and a Democratic vp then stuff will get done? What are you smoking?
I think what we should do is outlaw political parties. Too many people vote for someone just because they're a Democrat or a Republican and not because they have any real knowledge of what the candidate stands for. Without the crutch of party affiliations to lean on, people might actually pay attention to the issues and what a candidate proposes to do.
And 8 years is way too long. If you knew you had 8 years and were going to have no one to answer to once that 8 years was up? Think of all the damage you could do.
1.28.04 @ 1:59p
Outlaw campaigning. That'll be faster.
Or outlaw campaigning on your own behalf -- you have to appoint someone to do all that for you, and make no personal appearances of any kind.
Without the crutch of party affiliation to lean on, Matt, voting numbers would continue to drop. If people are too lazy to find out what candidates stand for now, they're certainly not going to buy into a system that requires them to spend MORE time doing research.
1.28.04 @ 2:06p
Or what about this: dropping term limits all together, and instituting a hard cap on campaign spending.
The former would ensure that there are no lame duck presidents and whoever's in the Oval Office will always be accountable. Plus, if the majority of the country likes them and thinks they're doing a good job, why should they be forced out?
The latter would reduce the ridiculous amount of time spent fundraising, and would make a level playing ground for everyone.
1.28.04 @ 2:33p
I'm with you on the cap on campaign spending. The fact that how much money a candidate has to spend on campaigning is viewed as a major factor in their possible success is frustrating - especially because I'm sure that to a point it is true.
1.28.04 @ 3:19p
Plus, if the majority of the country likes them and thinks they're doing a good job, why should they be forced out?
Well, consider how much of the country currently likes Bush and thinks he's doing a good job.
1.28.04 @ 3:59p
Well, as much as I absolutely, deeply, completely detest Bush with the white hot heat of a thousand suns, this is a Democracy. So if the majority of the people think he should stay, then he should stay.
His approval rating isn't that hight right now anyway. It's in the low to mid 50s. Which ain't great. It's not terrible either, but it certainly ain't great.
1.28.04 @ 5:16p
Eliminate terms? With this finicky American public? Nothing would ever get done. Hell, a new President would have less than a year to prove himself. It takes that long to get a full grasp on the current situation. The presidency would become a joke.
1.28.04 @ 5:34p
No, I meant eliminate term limits. Allow presidents to serve more than two terms if they can keep getting reelected. But if would have to come with campaign spending limits.
1.28.04 @ 11:53p
The Presidency is already a joke. The election process has become a joke, yet there aren't many other ways for the system to run. What the country needs, and isn't going to get no matter who wins the next election, is a person who can truly unite the country.
I don't think there has been a President since my birth who could elicit a unified feeling in the country. Well, Nixon sort of took a lot of hate heat, but even he wasn't the pure evil he was made out to be. The rest have been a bunch of goofs.
Carter was perceived a hick, Ford a bumbling fool, Reagan was an actor acting badly, Bush was a wimp, Clinton was a sex machine, and now we've got Bush 2 a puppet for corporate America to pull strings.
I think the system has to work, because the overhaul will be too costly. Instead of term limits and spending limits, lets talk educating the public on who they are choosing from. Let's get some real information, from the media instead of jumping on Dean for yelling his head off, lets get real information.
Force every candidate to sit through a Barbara Walters interview, or some other interview. Open up their lives like they do Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Let's see if any candidate could withstand real invesitgations.
My idea is great, but the public wouldn't want it. The public isn't interested in who these candidates really are unless there is a deep dark scandal in their past, or some juicy tidbit about a weekend with Britney Spears. For the few who do care, it would be a waste of media money to pander to a higher quality reporting.
1.29.04 @ 2:01a
Great thoughts all, I appreciate 'em. (Serious mojo thrown down by Robert, and holster those suns, Morin, or at least don't point them at me!)
For background, this hyperbolic column was based on a bar conversation with friends. I'm fortunate to have intelligent friends, some liberal, some conservative and I was struck by the commonality of frustrations, and moreso by the ideas people had in response.
The responses here have been similar. And while I like my idea (it sounds really good after a handful of High Lifes), the responses are even better.
We all seem to be highly skeptical of an incumbents' de facto nomination, and exasperated at the cannibalism the opposing party enacts to nominate a feasible successor.
The main difference is how to affect needed changes. That is unity of a sort, isn't it? How many concepts that most of us would otherwise agree on are warped by the false polarity of the current system? I doubt we'll know anytime soon.
Instead, we'll realistically have Bush for four more years (and no, he won't destroy the country, but he will annoy) and then we'll have Hilary for a stretch (who also won't destroy the country, but will annoy). Balance in all things I guess.
2.2.04 @ 12:56p
Isn't it funny how most people suspect Hillary to run in 2008, myself included?
I met a man last week who runs in some similar circles as Hillary and her minions, and said that she's really good at repeating what others have said/done, thus making her seem intelligent, but she's really a dingbat. According to him and his sources, she has yet to do anything of quality as a Senator.
'Course, he's a conservative, so maybe it's all spin.
2.2.04 @ 5:11p
The world is spin. Spin is the new black.
2.3.04 @ 12:59a
If Hillary is politically wise (and no matter who you are, you have to give her props on her savvy), she will continue to hunker down in her Senate office and do politically shrewd and non-controversial things. She is going to do absolutely nothing of any consequence, for the simple reason that she wants to be President one day. People who do anything of consequence tend to rally people together who don't like what they did.
4.16.04 @ 10:43p
Good leaders help us to unite behind common objectives. It would take a leader with unprecedented persuasive powers to pull us away from our divisive competition over details, and get us to focus on the development of a new foundational structure which would unite us rather than divide us. With Democrats we get blue shingles on the roof. With Republicans we get red shingles on roof. (or is it the other way around?) Both parties believe, or at least profess to believe in the current foundation on which the United States is based. Changing the shingles for a house whose foundation is crumbling will not fix the problem. Perhaps we are avoiding the problem because it is very difficult to fix the foundation while living in the house.
Keep on ranting!!