President For A Day

What would I do if I were president for a day? There are tremendous limits to what a president can do, let alone in one day. If I were president for a day, the most I could hope to get out of it would be really good room service from the White House chef, and shooting some hoops in the White House basketball court. Here’s a more useful question: What would I change if I were an absolute monarch for a day, and after that the country went back to being a democracy forever?

Well, let me tell you. I would insist on a multi-party system and take money out of the equation.

Let’s start with eliminating money. Right away that would stop politicians from being beholden to special interests and corporations, so they could actually stand for something. The government gives every party a certain amount of campaign money, and that’s all. So the little guys have just as much as the big guys. In addition, each party has the money that comes in as membership contributions, which are determined by the government, again so that corporations can’t “contribute” huge sums and have a bigger say.

Now for the multi-party system. But we have a multi-party system, you Americans say. We have two parties. That’s multi. Well, I beg to differ. When there are only two parties, they both have their loyal followers (republicans the far right people and the democrats the far left people) and they both have to focus on the people in the middle. Result? They really can’t be that different, and they can’t really stand for anything much. They have to say whatever they think will make those that are on the fence happy.

And because neither party can really make a clear stand on anything, they really don’t have a clear party agenda. By that I mean a written policy on where they stand on every issue, that all the elected officials of that party stick to. The result is that each elected official just panders as much as he or she can to the people that voted for them, and that support them financially, and so you really don’t vote for a party as much as you vote for an individual. You vote more for charisma than for ideas. Throughout history it’s been proven again and again what a bad idea it is to fixate on individual leaders. It also leads to a lot of wasted time, such as bickering about somebody’s birth certificate instead of national issues.

So let me tell you what a real multi-party system looks like. In Holland, anybody who is over 18 years of age and is a Dutch citizen can start a party. On average the Dutch have around 30 parties. Especially the small ones come and go, or merge when it becomes clear that two parties really don’t differ much in their agenda. The result is that you have about 30 party agendas to choose from. Thirty different spelled-out lists of where each party stands on all the issues. Who decides on those agendas? The party members—meaning you if you want. And those same party members hold their elected officials to account if they deviate too much from the agenda.

So imagine: on the right there would be several parties with various degrees of rightness. There would be a party whose biggest priority is allowing everybody to have whatever guns they want, and carry them wherever they want. Their second biggest priority is teaching creationism instead of science in public schools. And so on down the list of every issue that is relevant at the time. Another party on the right has as biggest priority balancing the budget, then whatever, and their stand is that guns should be limited as much as possible, and they believe religion should be kept out of schools. Get the picture? You get to pick and choose the party that comes as close to your own priorities as possible. You wouldn’t feel that you’re just voting for the lesser of two evils.

So then it’s no longer the rule of those with the biggest mouths and the most financial power. And we’d see how many Americans actually think that having complete fire arm freedom is a great idea. Then we’d see how many Americans actually think that creationism should be taught in public schools. And similar examples can be thought of for the left. “The middle” would also be more nuanced and clearly defined.

The votes would be counted on election day and each party would get the number of seats in congress proportionate to its votes. That’s called proportional representation. So those that do want complete gun freedom, or creationism in public schools, or whatever, have a say that’s proportionate to their number, not their advertising budget. The tea party would be an actual party. They could stop bullying reasonable republicans and actually prove themselves.

In short, you wouldn’t feel so disenfranchised because you have a say in what your party agenda is. You would also feel that your vote is more specific. Right now it’s anybody’s guess what people really vote for. Did the majority vote for Obama mean a mandate for his ideas, or just a vote for change as a vague notion arising from just as vague a feeling of dissatisfaction with Bush? And how many republican votes came from tea party folks?

Also, the officials you elect will be held to account about the issues by the party they represent. Again, that means by you. They would be asked questions in regular party meetings. Right now the only way to voice your unhappiness with someone is to vote for the other guy four long years down the road. Politicians would not be allowed to accept money or favors or promises of future jobs by special interests or corporations, so they would actually be people who care about the issues they were voted on. That would make the whole thing a lot less cynical. Not so much game-playing, and more resolving of actually important issues.

And all the money now spent on campaigning–spent on bad-mouthing the opposition rather than pointing out what their party stands for, spent on balloons and little flags and guys telling you through microphones exactly when to wave them—think what could be done with all that…

I would love to know what you think, even about old posts.

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