James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, July 09, 2007

Real Campaign Reform: Get a Parliament

Vache Folle has three posts on changing some or all of the Constitution. It reminds me of a discussion I had last week with a woman annoyed by the length of the Presidential campaign. It became evident to me that every criticism against our practices are really criticisms against our system. For instance, parliamentary systems don't have such long campaigns, because when the government calls an election, it is usually held within six weeks. Moreover, the party leader (who would become Prime Minister) is selected by active members of the party, not by schmoes off the street as is the case in our party system.

In our system, the campaign season can not be limited without violating First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press, and assembly. In parliamentary systems, the campaign is limited because the election date is not fixed in law, but is set by the government.

Many of the other criticisms of our system has to do with lobbying of individual members of Congress, and the cost of campaigns. In a parliamentary system, one is more likely to vote for the party, not the individual, and the individual is expected to toe the party line.

I'm not a fan of the Constitution, but believe we should follow it so long as it is the law of the land, and change it only by methods it describes. Otherwise, we will get arbitrary power and tyranny, as indeed we already have. If I were to change the Constitution - and assuming that the states remain sovereign entities - I would make it more of a parliamentary system:

1. The President serves a seven-year term, with set election dates. Members of the Cabinet will also be members of the House of Representatives, and will include a de facto Prime Minister. Yes, there is the potential hear for a long election cycle for the President, but it will be only once every seven years. And many powers he now enjoys will be stripped from him; his function would be similar to a monarch in a democratic constitutional monarchy.

2. Members of the House will serve at most five-year terms. The Prime Minister will call the election, or the President will if there is deadlock or a no-confidence vote. All bills originate in the House. The number of Congressional districts will increase to at least 1000.

3. Senators will be selected by State legislatures, and will be expected under threat of recall to vote according to instructions given to them by their legislatures. The Senate will not be able to initiate any legislation, but can block or suggest amendments. The Senate will also serve as the highest court in the land, but will hear only cases it chooses to hear. Senators will function more as ambassadors of their state rather than legislators. And since they aren't elected by the people, they don't have to raise campaign cash. The "special interests" they would be beholden to are their own states. They will also resolve election disputes.

I believe our own system errs in separating the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to the extent they do. I believe there would be more real "checks and balances" if there was greater integration of those powers. But those who disagree, and reject this British-style parliamentary democracy, should stop complaining about long campaigns and campaign financing.

1 comment:

  1. James, a possible benefit of long campaigns and an early choice of candidates would be that the candidates could start selecting their team. Voters would know who was going to be appointed to the cabinet. Of course, this problem would be ameliorated if we had a parliamentary system with "shadow" governments.