Let’s suppose that the democratic component of our presidential elections is eliminated. All the state legislatures have to choose every four years who they will send to the electoral college, which meets on the same day in each state and votes for president. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, then the House of Representatives chooses the next president for them.
Let’s suppose that things are otherwise mostly the way they are today. How would this political season be different?
First off, the president would not be a position for which hardly anyone would have a say in. It doesn’t matter what you or I think, as long as we are not sitting in a legislature. So the entire debate about who the next president would be would occur out of the public arena. Is this a bad thing? I think when we choose who the next president is, it is a very good thing. We can maintain the dignity of the office, and still have a hearty discussion about who best to lead our country without being humiliated internationally.
Second, I imagine that the republican and democratic parties would take careful stock of which legislatures are in their pocket and which are not. As it stands today, republicans have an overwhelming advantage in state legislatures across the country. By my math, splitting the electoral votes evenly when the upper and lower chambers are not united in party, the republicans have 332 vs. 203 for the democrats.
Because of this second fact, a great deal more attention will be spent on the state legislatures. If you want to influence presidential selection, you need to get your people in the state legislatures. I can see the state elections becoming more important than the federal ones under this system. Is this not a good thing?
Third, when one or the other party realizes it has the upper hand, it must then choose a candidate that is agreeable to all of its states, or at least enough to carry the day. The party will be busy finding and selling a variety of candidates for president, until they find one that the state legislatures find palatable enough.
What are the qualifications state legislators would care to see in the president?
- For starters, they must not be so repugnant to the people that they would be in danger of being held accountable for how they vote on election day. Even though, at best, congress can put 2 years between the selection of the president and the election of the state legislatures, people will remember when the legislature makes a bad choice, and it will make re-election that much harder.
- The president should represent what they would like in the office of the presidency. For many and most people, this will simply be what everyone expects a president to be: smart, courageous, and able to lead fairly. For a few, this will be a test of ideological purity. Compared to what the people care about, this is worlds better than what we have today.
- Most importantly, state legislators will not choose a president who would interfere in their political realm. They would want a president who respected boundaries and didn’t try to usurp the power of the states to do what they wish.
In the end, I imagine that either party would have a long list of potential candidates. A committee appointed to represent interested parties would whittle this down to a few, and finally, choose one to be the candidate for the party. I can’t imagine a party forcing a candidate on a state legislature. It just doesn’t work that way. The legislatures would be more than free to tell the National GOP where they can put their candidates if they refuse to choose someone who represents their ideas.
And where would money pay a role? Perhaps you could bribe some state legislators to vote a certain way. I doubt you could bribe all of them, even if you had very deep pockets. Maybe you could promise a state that if they choose so-and-so to be president, then they would give the state money or some advantage. But if that advantage comes at the cost of the other states, I can’t see the other states jumping on that bandwagon.
We have a similar system for choosing federal judges today. Even if the senate were united in the president’s party, they would still insist on thoroughly vetting potential judges. Note that judges don’t even think of raising a dime to help their chances to get appointed, nor do they go about campaigning to be a judge. Judges are chosen.
Assuming that a party has the upper hand, the process of selecting electors will be relatively quiet and obscure. Once the candidate has been named, it is just a matter of time with boring details in between. The legislatures choose the electors, the electors meet, the candidate is chosen, and he becomes president.
In the rare case that neither party has an upper hand, then both parties will put forward a compromise candidate. This candidate would be able to convince both republicans and democrats that they would be a good president for them. In this way, it becomes a race to capture the middle. We would end up with a president who really represented all of us. What a concept that would be! The curious effect of having a divided legislature decide on something is what compels this. Since the House of Representatives would choose someone anyway, it is in every state legislature’s interest to make a choice.
The best part is that almost all of the above process would be out of the public eye. Our representatives would be doing all the hard work at coming to a resolution quickly. We can enjoy watching our TV shows and ads without being bombarded by presidential ads designed to divide us against each other. Nobody on the air would think of furthering their political agenda by hurting our president, since the people’s opinion of the president isn’t very relevant.
A curious thing also occurs. The amount of money spent campaigning for president would be almost zero. How much does a CEO spend trying to find a job? No, it would rather be the other way around. No one would ever say, “Choose me for president.” Instead, they would get chosen to be president. Gone is all the ego in getting elected.
In office, the president wouldn’t think much about re-election. As long as the makeup of the state legislatures doesn’t change much, and as long as they don’t do anything retarded, they should be safe for re-election. This gives them a similar power to CEOs, the ability to do their jobs and focus on what’s important for the country. Since the president never campaigned for the position in the first place, but instead was chosen, the country would look at him differently as well. Why would it make sense to beat up on our president, when he faces no re-election by the people? If you wanted him out of office, you’d have to either convince the House to impeach him or the state legislatures to change their affiliation or respect for the man in office.
The Founding Fathers abhorred democracy, and the above story illustrates why. What purpose does it serve to whip up emotions, to divide the country into “us” vs. “them”, and to set people ablaze with passion? How can doing so possibly help us achieve a sane government that represents and protects the rights of the people? It boggles my mind why people think democracy is a good idea, or why forcing us to beat each other up each year makes us strong.
In conclusion, we simply wouldn’t have a political system like we have today if we eliminated the democratic part of our presidential selection process.