OPINION: A few ideas for fixing up America

OPINION: A few ideas for fixing up America



My lawn’s a mess, I haven’t cleaned out the gutters in a couple of years, and I may never get around to painting the kitchen — but I have a few ideas for fixing up the United States of America. If I were an academic, I’d doll these notions up with some Latin lingo and apply for a federal grant. Instead, I offer them here, gratis.

When I rule the world, I’ll limit the terms of Supreme Court justices. Who else has a job from which you’d practically have to blow up the Statue of Liberty to get fired? Sure, I’d want the justices to have terms that are longer than a two-term presidency, but how much longer? Twenty years should be plenty, and that way nobody’s going to be desperately hanging on, well into his or her dotage, waiting for a better president to come along to replace them.

So that’s settled.

Next, I’ll get rid of the oh-so-quaint Electoral College. Only five U.S. presidents in history have been elected despite losing the popular vote, but we’ve had two of them since 2000: George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump.

The Electoral College is deliberately undemocratic. It goes back to the powdered-wig set, some of whom were rich planters like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who lived like princes and owned hundreds of slaves. They feared “mob rule,” which is to say they feared democracy. Can’t have all those peasants jamming up the gears of government.

Furthermore, it gives small states much more clout than they deserve. In Wyoming, the least populous state, every 195,000 people get an electoral vote; in California it’s one electoral vote per 712,000 people. And in most states it’s winner take all: no proportional split of the electoral votes.

This system encourages presidential candidates’ high-priced, high-tech consultants to apply campaign algebra that ignores low-population areas so they can focus on swing states in pursuit of the winning total of 270 electoral votes. So much for the outdated Electoral College.

Besides, it’s always possible — maybe even likely — that more people will vote if they believe their vote really counts.

Am I right, or what?

And then there’s the demographic science of gerrymandering, by which the majority party in each state gets to rejigger the congressional districts to their own advantage. This is undemocratic, even antidemocratic. I’ll get rid of it.

How? I have no idea. Maybe set up some kind of council of elders, wise and nonpartisan, to decide these things in the best possible way. Oh, wait — that’s how the Supreme Court was supposed to work. So I’m back to “I have no idea.”

Finally: I’ll start requiring run-off elections, as many other countries do when no candidate compiles a clear majority; a mere plurality won’t do. A president’s authority, both in the nation and in the world, would only be enhanced if he or she had pulled in at least a bare majority of the votes. And yet, from John F. Kennedy (49.7 percent) to Trump (46.1 percent) we’ve had six presidents without such a mandate (William J. Clinton twice, with 43.0 and 49.0 percent, respectively).

And there you have it. I’m me, and I approved this message.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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