Exhausted and dismayed? Pull up your socks and stagger on, people. We’re still six months away from choosing a new president.
Why do we persist in doing this to ourselves? How is it that other people choose their leaders in short order, sans fisticuffs and foolishness? What’s the matter with us, anyway?
This, partly: Our “reformed” political parties have given up on deciding who their candidates will be. Thus we get too many nutty candidates spouting too much rabid nonsense. (Looking at you, Republicans!) This democracy stuff may be all well and good, but there is such a thing as altogether too much of a good thing, if you ask me.
How clever of the political parties to put it on us to winnow out their Looney Tune candidates by means of interminable faux “debates” when that winnowing process properly belongs to the parties themselves. Thanks all the same, but it’s too hard. Too horrifying. Little wonder party officials don’t want to do it.
And another thing: I know it’s entirely unfashionable to say so and contravenes what I’ve always argued about the importance of voting. However, current events do give one pause. What if our trouble is not that too few people vote but that too many do? (No, I’m emphatically not talking about what certain states do to voters of color. So don’t bother to go there.)
We can’t impose I.Q. tests on voters, nor ascertain their grasp of public policy blunders and blessings or even of rudimentary democratic principles. Our republic rests on the lofty presumption — OK, the delusional fantasy — that we voters, exercising our sovereign right to rule ourselves, come thoughtfully and well informed to the task of picking a leader.
The truth is that we yearn for — demand, actually — simple-minded solutions to complex problems. So why not have a simplistic election system?
Here, then, is a modest proposal: one state, one vote. Using Social Security numbers, pick one voter, by lottery. That lucky citizen, however brilliant or bewildered, would represent every citizen of all political persuasions in a given state and be entrusted with choosing a president on behalf of everyone who lives there.
That’s it. No muss, no fuss, no bother. Any lottery winner who refused this civic honor would be summarily clamped in stocks and remain permanently displayed on that state capitol’s front lawn.
Game theorists and people whose perception of reality is informed by computer-generated algorithms and abstruse analytics might well agree that, at the end of the day, the outcome would be the same whether 50 people vote or 50 million. Think of the time, money and aggravation this would save. Plus, the rest of us could forget about how tiresome it is to live in a republic where we’re obliged to do the heavy lifting of governing ourselves rather than being able to rely on someone else to govern us. Really, what’s not to like? Hello?
“Second of all,” as Bernie Sanders likes to say, we seem to have far too few political parties. How did such a big, multi-valued nation come to settle for just two?
The Republican party’s troubles stem partly from having too many unyielding people with conflicting agendas trying to fit inside the same tent. That’s a good argument for having single-issue parties. One for people whose civic passion is reducing their tax bill, for instance, and another for those whose civic passion is saving our souls. That both are now lodged inside the Republican tent is one reason that party is unraveling.
Our European friends have figured this out. Their parliaments commonly seat at least half a dozen or more parties — labor parties, farmers’ parties, Christian parties, environmental parties, etc.
Having so many parties does have one drawback: It means a single party rarely can get enough votes to rule by itself. Coalition governments composed of two or three parties are a common necessity. Even parties that got only a pitiful 5 percent of the vote can find themselves assigned control of a ministry or two and helping to govern the nation — while parties that got lots more voter support are frozen out. Admittedly, that’s a regrettable downside.
The upside is that the government’s survival in office depends on the parties’ willingness to compromise with one another. How cool is that?
Of course, our politicians are far too highly principled to compromise, so this won’t work here. Pity they’ve overlooked the most attractive argument for coalition governance: because so many cooks are stirring the stew, no one can be held accountable when food poisoning strikes.
Oh, never mind. Why can’t anyone ever get this governing stuff right?
Meanwhile, the formerly uber-principled Sanders unveiled his insufferably condescending, sarcastic, relentlessly hectoring side during the recent Democratic debate. It’s becoming apparent why he has so little to show for a quarter-century in Congress.
However, this high-minded gadfly, who supposedly entered the race only to push Hillary Clinton leftwards, still has a valid, resonant message regarding economic inequality. And now he’s heard the seductive sound of resounding cheers and deafening applause. Uh-oh.
Also, Republicans seem to have concluded that even though he’s the only candidate plausibly able to threaten Clinton, John Kasich is insufficiently gloomy about the state of the nation to lead it.
But not to worry. The rest of us can more than make up for Kasich’s gloom deficit.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.