Saturday, September 30, 2006

Government Is Too Important for Politicians 

Over at Capitol Hill Blue, Doug Thompson provides a lot of insight into how being a Republican operative for many years stole his soul, and how it showed him why the political system doesn't work.

Which brings me back to an idea that I've posted here before, but which is an absolutely serious suggestion for saving this country from the madness of our illusory two party system. Ask yourself this: why is it that, in order to get elected to higher office in America, it's de facto that a candidate be a millionaire? And -- how many millionaires do you know? Could you afford to even run for mayor in your town? Probably not, and that's the problem.

We already entrust one of our most sacred civic duties to a random system. Every court in the land draws its jury pool from a random sample of citizens, chosen by who-knows-what formula, and it works. And, given the total mess that Congress and most State Houses have made of this country, I can't help but think a lottery system couldn't be worse than what we now have.

It would work like this: first, on the local level, people are chosen by random drawing to serve as Mayor, City Council, Supervisor, and all other local elected offices, on a city and countywide basis. Next time around, they're replaced by another lottery, but also entered for the next level up -- State Rep and State Senate. Repeat again; State Reps and State Senators are entered in the Governor, House of Reps and Senate lottery. Next cycle, replace everyone again, with the Governors, Reps and Senators entered in the President, Cabinet and Supreme Court lottery. Once a person has served on that level, their duty is done and they retire, with full pension.

We can't possibly come up with anything worse than we've elected otherwise, and chances are we'd do better. And, ultimately, we'd break the power of the PACs and lobbyists, and eliminate special interest politics forever. Sure, we'd be left at the whims of the special interests of whoever won office for a term. On the other hand, they'd be limited to a single term. No running for re-election, no pandering, no bullshit. No one would be too powerful, because the demographics of the elect would match the demographics of the citizens, and political parties would be a thing of the past. Congress would be composed of a truly reflective balance of moderates, conservatives, liberals, raving fascists and rabid anarchists. Just like real life. Just like this country. (Anyone who claims that Congress has no nutjobs now hasn't been paying attention.)

And, finally, it would be a true government by the people, for the people and of the people. With the longest possible term of service being the six years given to a US Senator (or eight years to a President if they get an automatic two terms), no one person would be able to do too much damage, and it could be quickly undone.

Bonus points: the lottery draws could be the biggest reality show in town, replacing election coverage, drawing enormous ratings and raising beaucoup money.

"And the next president of the United States is... Ethel Schaumberg, from Kearny, Nebraska..."

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