Sunday, October 28, 2012

We Should Never Re-elect Anyone

How does a politician represent their* constituents in a polarized nation?  Not well, generally, but particularly poorly when running for re-election.  It is during a re-election campaign that it is impossible for a politician to maintain the pleasant fiction that they're representing all of their constituents, and not just those who voted them into office.  During a re-election campaign, a politician, who is supposed representing everyone, will openly attack the ideas and interests of those who oppose them.  For months prior to an election, every turn of the radio dial reminds nearly half the electorate that their "representative" disagrees with them in the strongest terms, and thus cannot hope to be representing them adequately.  At the very best, it's dispiriting.

You may argue that, in times of crisis, a constant hand on the tiller is vital.  Be that as it may, the exigencies of a crisis do not mandate maintaining them in perpetuity.  For every steady hand during crisis, there are many more who it would have been well to be rid of.  For every Lincoln there is a second Wilson term or a fourth Roosevelt term.

You may also argue that, in times of peace, we would lose the expertise of a particularly able leader.  By contrast, if everyone knew that there would be only a single term, after which the leader would be replaced, they would devote far more time to developing depth of talent, rather than relying on a handful of individuals.

In short, for the few extremes in which we may not wish to change horses in mid-stream, there are many more in which we are beating a dead horse.  However, if there was no such thing as a re-election, the changing of horses in mid-stream would be prepared for.  Our political system would be more resilient, we'd improve the quality of government, and even if our politicians don't represent us well, we can at least pretend that they do.


*Per the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of "their" as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun dates to 1395 in Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Prologue" and was similarly used by Shakespeare.  So there.

2 Comments:

Blogger Yoel Natan said...

Both Wilson and Roosevelt became incapacitated during their second terms. I'm not sure this is a valid point to bring up anymore when considering the wisdom of second terms, since medicine is a lot better than it used to be, in the preventive, predictive, and curative senses. Also, presidents wouldn't be able to hide such information anymore, and they are expected to make their annual physicals public.

Moreover, I like the idea of the electorate rewarding a president with a second term if his first term went well, and they are convinced that he is better for the country than his opponent. Moreover, if someone really wants the presidency, he can run for it two or three times. It's not as though we will lose the services of a qualified individual, and his ideas, forever, if he doesn't get elected the first time. Also, by campaigning alone, a person injects his ideas into the public forum. Thus, Ron Paul was eager to run for president knowing he wouldn't get elected, merely to air his views.

2:39 AM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Lincoln was assassinated shortly after being re-elected. Wilson was incapacitated shortly after being re-elected. Roosevelt died shortly after being elected to a fourth term. LBJ declined to seek re-election. Clearly we can change administrations during times of crisis, as we have been forced by circumstance to change leadership during those times anyway. Why not make it official?


Moreover, I like the idea of the electorate rewarding a president with a second term if his first term went well, and they are convinced that he is better for the country than his opponent.

How many Presidents can you name who were better in their second term than they were in the first?


Moreover, if someone really wants the presidency, he can run for it two or three times. It's not as though we will lose the services of a qualified individual, and his ideas, forever, if he doesn't get elected the first time.

That's actually an argument for not re-electing people.

However, if you've run for office and lost (not counting primaries), most people consider you more or less washed-up and won't vote for you again.

3:31 PM  

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