March 26, 2016
The US Constitutions says nothing about how candidates will be selected for our elections process. Our current practice of holding primaries came about to “democratize” the process of nominating candidates for office. The old system (by tradition) was to have political parties in each state select candidates and then in a nominating convention choose from among them. The Constitution does not mention political parties either. Our first president, George Washington, did not like them, fearing factional dysfunction. We can imagine what he would think of today's factional parties!
One of the great strengths of the United States is its ability to change those things that have gone wrong. We finally corrected the terrible institution of slavery, but it did take a horrific war to do so. Earlier, President Jackson thought that giving the vote to all white males was an improvement over the elite system that preceded it, white (educated) property owners. His intention was to spread political power to the people, not including, of course, women or Blacks. Uneducated voters with no skin in the game (property, for example) could be, and certainly were, bought. Following Jackson, our national politics were rife with corruption, and after the Civil War ended, rife with power to the very rich, the age of the Robber Barons.
Political parties, as written in my column of 3-19, are not cast in stone. We have, by and large, functioned with two major parties, fringe or third parties not able to gain direct tractions. The one exception to this was the collapse of the Whig Party (1830-60) and the birth of its spinoff, the Republican Party, which elected Abraham Lincoln. We may be approaching a repetition of this process if many Republicans defect from selecting Donald Trump as their 2016 candidate for the presidency.
There is a fever of anger and frustration loose in the country now, unhappiness with today's political dysfunction. A vocal minority feels betrayed by their parties not doing what they think right. Both the Tea Party on the far right and the far left Democrats detest any sort of cooperation in governance that compromises their “principles.” They are out of step with the idea of working across the aisle, negotiating those issues upon which they can agree. The rival parties have come to hate each other rather than considering each other as partners in governance.
Because we have a political system that can self-correct, there are a few things that we can do to make our election process better. I don't like the present primary system that gives a few states an undue benefit in selecting candidates. This could be remedied by holding the primary elections on the same day, nation wide, giving the state political parties more power in vetting candidates. People who work in the political system certainly know candidates better than most of us take the time to do.
Although the American press reaps great benefits from our long election process, playing up, as they have this time, spectacle over thought, most Americas should consider an election cycle of two months instead of nearly two years! Almost every other democracy in our time does this. And once more, the nominating conventions would return to doing the heavy lifting rather than just rubber-stamping the survivors of a grueling public circus.
There are candidates who feel, as Hillary Clinton confessed at a recent town meeting, that she does not have the pizazz on the podium that her husband and President Obama have; and she would much rather be doing the work than providing spectacle. The same can be said for Governor John Kasich, who has had difficulty generating rowdy mob appeal. Only a few gifted candidates can do both. Others are just spectacle, without substance, and most often, simpy demagogues.
Finally, the next Congress would do well to undo the disastrous Supreme Court judgment that money equals free speech. Having shorter election cycles, same- day primary elections, and protection against the contamination of dark money, we could do much better as a democratic republic.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law. You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.