Thursday, August 31, 2006

Proposed Constitutional Amendment

For the Constitutional Convention of my Constitutional Law Problems Seminar, I propose the following amendment:
All eligible voters, regardless of political affiliation, shall be allowed to participate in the primary elections of all political parties.
Or, in the alternative:
§ 1. The current political primary system employed by the political parties is abolished in regard to the election of candidates for the office of President of the United States. Any attempt to narrow down candidates by popular election in a similar manner is prohibited.

§ 2. On the last February of any presidential election year, a National Primary shall be held. If there is no incumbent President, the three candidates who receive the most popular votes shall be eligible for election in November. If there is an incumbent President, he or she shall be eligible for election in November, as well as the two candidates who receive the most popular votes. No other candidates shall be eligible.
The problem I am trying to address with these amendments is that the people elected in the primaries are always poor candidates. Both parties have more moderate candidates in the primary elections, and I hope that with an amendment similar to one of these, they will be possible candidates for the presidency.


  1. Kelly you recently posted this on Language Guys blog

    "Hitler . . . mooted the murder charge."
    This is the most light-hearted, amusing take on suicide I have ever heard. I think I'm applauding you here, but I'm not sure.

    Your position on this issue doesn't seem clear, so I'm going to ask some questions.

    If Saddam did indeed have WMDs, and Bush had good intelligence to give him knowledge of that state of affairs, would he have been wrong in invading Iraq? I think that this would have been proper, since he clearly wasn't going to cooperate with the UN any time in the foreseeable future.

    At what point is it proper to invade Iran? Is it (a) when they miss the next deadline set by the UN, (b) when they refuse any diplomatic talks on the subject, or (c) when the UN decides it's OK (and when should the UN so decide, or will they?), (d) when they first test their nuclear weapons, or (e) some other time? I would think (c) is preferable, but the UN is always so indecisive about things. It's kind of frustrating. My next choice would be (a) or (b), and (d) is definitely not a good choice.

    Unable due to censorship, to comment on it there, I wanted to do so here.

    You ask at what point is it proper to inavde Iran?

    I do not know if by "proper" you mean legal, but read on.

    As a student of law surely you know that it is (c) (or more precisely the security council) and every member of the UN accepts this since it is a precondition to signing the charter.

    This is a simple academic question of international law, whcih to all intents and purposes is defined by the UN charter.

    It always amazes me how critics complain about the UN on the basis of it "not working" yet at the same time eagerly accept it's authority over others when deciding of those others warrant intervention.

    These are the people who express outrage at the UN for failing and being a restraining force for good policy making yet at the same time reprimand others who also choose to disregard it.


  2. Hi, Kelly. Haven't been by for a while...and it looks like you haven't blogged for a while! (I need to check out your new "teaching" blog, too. All things in time!)

    I'll address the content of your post (ahem)...I think you've hit the problem with the current political situation exactly and offered one possible solution. I'd have to think about it some more in terms of practicality, though.

    One possible source of trouble I see is that period between elections. A lot could happen in nine-months, after all.

    A question, too: why limit abolition of partisan involvement only to the presidential election? You should know more about this than I do: is there anything in the Constitution requiring a two-party system? What aspects of political parties do you feel warrant their continued existence?

  3. Actually, George Washington warned against political parties. He thought they'd be a bad thing. Nothing in the Constitution requires them, but they can't be abolished without amending the Constitution due to the First Amendment and the implied right of association. People familiar with my methods of constitutional interpretation will be quick to pounce here and wonder why I recognize this implied right when I refuse to recognize other implied rights. The reason is that it is a necessarily implied right that you can associate with others for speech, for a number of reasons, much as the right to petition government necessarily implies that you have access to the government.

    I wouldn't like to abolish the parties within states forcefully at the federal level. I think states should be free to make that choice themselves, but I would be for abolishing them altogether.

    As for bodies which involve more than one elected person (legislatures), the danger of political parties is less. The sheer number of people makes it less likely that extreme decisions will be made unless the reasons for those decisions are very compelling. However, I would like to abolish political parties altogether. The practical problems with doing so are profound. I suppose you could prohibit candidates from identifying themselves as a member of a political party, but there are a lot of things you could do to get around such a prohibition.

  4. I see and agree with your point about abolishing political parties themselves. I wasn't thinking that far ahead and only meant curtailing their overt involvement in the process, or mention of partisan affiliations by candidates and officials, just as I think the same people shouldn't mention their religious, etc., affiliations. (But you also mention the problems with this. And it goes to infringement on free speech as well, I know. Maybe instead of prohibiting via legislation, we could create a new atmosphere where it would seem gauche to bring such things into the discussion?)

    Campaigning and behavior in office should be governed by rational analysis of issues and problems, not by some primitive group mentality.

    Interesting topic.

    A bit off it, though: Your mention of the diffusal of partisanship in bodies of officials reminded me of something that occurred to me a few months ago. Why did the Founding Fathers decide to invest the power of the executive branch in only one person? Back when I was thinking about it, I wondered if having more than one person (possibly with some division of labor?) might be a viable alternative and lessen the destructive capabilities of one very bad person in the Oval Office. Any thoughts?

    (By the way, is it just me or has the number of active commenters over at LG's dropped off quite a bit? I myself have had other fish to fry--even though I usually prefer it raw these days!:)--and haven't been reading blogs like before. Has the BS with a certain person turned a lot of people off, you think, or is it just a quieter group of readers now?)

  5. Yeah, the comments have dropped off there quite a bit. I think a lot of it has to do with the recent trolling / irrelevant arguments that were going on there. But there's also the fact that people are getting sick and tired of the war, which is too often a topic of LG's choice.

    As for the Executive branch, it needs to be power invested in a very small group. You need a small group to act quickly and decisively, especially in times of war. One person is better because that way there aren't inconsistent policies in place (domestic economic policy needs to work with foreign economic policy, as well as welfare, military needs, and more--it's all a package deal). The cabinet should reduce the number of bad decisions that one person alone would make.

  6. The cabinet should reduce the number of bad decisions that one person alone would make.

    The key word there being should. :)

    I started to post this right after my other comment, but realized that I really knew very little about the Cabinet, so did a little research here and there.

    So...the Cabinet is not established by the Constitution except indirectly and not by name. One problem that I see with the current set-up is that the department secretaries (cabinet members) are appointed by and "serve at the pleasure" of the President. Their strongest recourse in the case of opposition to presidential decisions is to resign. Or, in the most extreme circumstances, band together with the vice president and declare the president unfit.

    I normally don't pay a lot of attention to these matters (a failing you have no doubt noticed by now), but how common is it for a president to appoint a department secretary from another party? Are any of the current cabinet Democrats, for example?

  7. I don't think they ever appoint anyone from another party. If they were prone to that kind of thing, they never would have gotten the nomination. It's sad, and this is one of the best reasons to change the way the candidates are nominated--only the loyal can get in.