08 November 2016

None of the Above

A friend said: "I know you don't like the idea, but this election really shows the need for a 'None of the Above' option." I didn't like the idea because you've got to elect somebody president eventually. To address that objection, the friend suggested that a new vote had to be held no more than 90 days after the first one, if "None of the Above" won a majority. Would that give the parties time enough to nominate new candidates? That raised the question of whether not just the candidate but the party should be disqualified in the event of a "None of the Above" vote. We agreed that the candidates rejected by the "None of the Above" vote should be disqualified from the next vote, but how would that work for presidential elections? Should "None of the Above" work on the state or federal level? That is, if "None of the Above" wins some states but the rival candidates win others, do those candidates hold their states while the others vote again, or do you mandate that, should "None of the Above" win the national popular vote, the slate in every state gets wiped clean? However you do it would require federal intrusion in election law, heretofore a state prerogative, and that probably would require a constitutional amendment. In that case, a "None of the Above" option should be part of a piecemeal reform process to be presented as a whole to the states for ratification. Part of the reform should be the establishment of a timely process for electing officials, given that the "None of the Above" option probably would force several rounds of voting, though there probably should be a maximum number of rounds, forcing a last choice on voters in order to have a President by Inauguration Day. We probably can do without the hideous interval we endure now between the nominating conventions and Election Day, and if we insist on even shorter intervals between votes in the event of "None of the Above" we might inspire long-needed changes in the way we choose our presidential candidates.

A few weeks ago I saw a BBC report that estimated that our two "realistic" choices for President were chosen for us by little more than 8% of the total electorate during the primaries and caucuses. The American people need to decide who they'd like to see run for President before the major parties make the decision for them. That probably means more celebrity candidates on the Trump model for a while, on both right and left, with some self-appointed and some possibly drafted, before professional politicians learn to work whatever new system comes into being. Given our culture, there may need to be a mechanism to screen out frivolous nominees, but it would have to be a mechanism that distinguishes between mere frivolity and genuine radicalism or even extremism, since any new process should broaden rather than narrow the scope of debate. We might look to "civil society" to offer us candidates, from labor unions to the NRA, and of course we should reconsider any sort of campaign event -- particularly debates -- for which space or time limitations make excuses for dividing candidates into castes of viability. If you can't have all credible candidates on one stage, don't let any share one in a way that discredits the others unless some sort of round-robin format can be arranged. If we're to have an election with a "None of the Above" option, or even elimination rounds to reduce the number of candidates, we probably won't have time anyway for the parodies of debates we've had since 1976. Maybe some people think the system still works because a major party was captured by a billionaire speaking blue-collar, but most people have to believe that the U.S. can do better than that. If you weren't happy with the choices you had today, you can the next four years hating the winner and probably guaranteeing another lousy choice in 2020, or you can start the long work of changing the system so such a choice is imposed on you again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The obvious solution, of course, would be to eliminate parties and force every single candidate to run on their own merit and personal history. But that would take more intelligence than the American populace has and more will-power than America is capable of mustering. Face it: We are doomed.

Not because tRump got elected, but because the American people have become low-life, uneducated, brain-dead, scum-sucking pigs. As I predicted, America did not get the leadership it needs, it go the leadership it deserves. And I'd stand by that regardless of which candidate had won.