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A Single Term, Ten Year Presidency

Think about it. A single term, ten year presidency would be a tremendous benefit to the country. The president, once elected, could devote his full attention to governing rather than running for re-election. Among other advantages, this would re-direct more than one billion dollars – the total spent by all candidates in a presidential campaign every four years – from campaign expenditures to potential investment in the economy. The president would be less a captive of his political party and more free to build coalitions. Many of our social and economic problems require long-term solutions and short-term sacrifices: a single, ten year term would allow the president to implement long-term policies that may be unpopular in the beginning but ultimately best for the nation. It would also provide a sense of stability, predictability, and familiarity to our political life, which is presently much too chaotic. Foreign nations, too, would find American policies more intelligible and less volatile. Americans would choose their presidents more carefully, knowing they would be “stuck” with the same man for ten years, the only remedy being impeachment.

Cross-posted from Stony Creek Digest.

Comments (53)

Jeff, the problem isn't the term of office, it's the presidential system coupled with the anti-democratic senate and a two year house - i.e. circumstances have arisen that immanentize the internal contradictions of certain hard-wired aspects of our Constitution.

As I have pointed out before the last time we faced circumstances similar to those we now face, we had a civil war. The only feasible quick fix would be a rule change in the Senate as the anti-democratic composition of that body is unchangeable.

BTW, a goal of one of our major parties is a de facto enactment of your proposal through the de jure limitation of the franchise in the several states.

I'm not an American, so my opinion is essentially irrelevant. That said, as a Canadian, I live in one of the countries that would be most affected by such a radical shift, and hope therefore that my reaction may be of interest if not relevance.

That reaction is, to paraphrase comedian Denis Leary: "Two words: Bad F*****' Idea."

1) The word for being beholden to the voters and the party is accountable. It's not a bad thing. And the practical meaning of "building coalitions" is crony capitalism -- not a good thing.

2) The money that might be saved by dispensing with campaign costs is negligible, compared with that which has already been wasted by Congressionals and a President who do have to worry about re-election; imagine what they'd do without that limit. Additionally, remember the Efficiency Paradox: "Improving efficiency never reduces absolute cost, because rather than doing the same with less, people will always do more with the same." If there was only one campaign every ten years, they'd just spend 2.5x as much money on each one.

3) The desireability of long-term solutions and short-term sacrifices varies hugely with the actual policy. Imagine what the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate would have done given ten guaranteed years to work on getting the Church out of health care.

4) "Stability, predictably, and familiarity...." Isn't this just another way of demanding that someone make the trains run on time? And as for foreign nations finding American policies intelligible and non-volatile, there is no guarantee of that if an unintelligible or volatile person achieves the Presidency.

5) Given the limited candidate selection and the current polarization in American culture and politics, changing the basis of voting from "voting for whom I think will accomplish the most good" to "voting against whom I think will do the most damage" is not likely to produce enough result to be worth it.

I can certainly understand and sympathize with the frustrations that lead one to kick ideas like this around again. Tom Friedman once ruminated wistfully on how nice it would be to be China for a day. But I can quote no better authority than Benjamin Franklin: "He who would give up a little essential liberty to achieve temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security."

"Imagine what the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate would have done given ten guaranteed years..."

Read closer Stephen. Giving Obama ten years but leaving the present dysfunctional and undemocratic Senate and two-year House would leave us with our present situation. Of course, had Obama been bolder and not tried to be post-partisan and the Democrats managed to hold the House as well as the Senate in 2010, well... bwaaaaa-haaaa-haaaa-haaaaa-haaaaa.

Jeff, I agree with Stephen J. I think this is a dreadful idea. You must deal more seriously with the bad policies of actual people and actual presidents. We do not, repeat, not, want the presidential policies to be harder to get rid of. Look at the present President and the policies he and his ilk have put into place.

Mind you, the incumbency is _already_ such a huge advantage that I think we're likely to be stuck with him for eight years. And such a wonderful thing that will be, too. After all (more sarcasm), so _many_ of our problems with Obama have come from his trying so hard to get reelected.

His foreign policies have been incoherent and arbitrary. All we would get for a longer presidency would be more of that particular person's incoherence and arbitrariness, not more stability.

Man is fallen. That's why the founders didn't want to give one man too much power. The solution isn't to try to change that and give one man more power. Indeed, there are no solutions. Only tradeoffs and compromises. Thomas Sowell's dictum gets more relevant every day.

"After all (more sarcasm), so _many_ of our problems with Obama have come from his trying so hard to get reelected."

This is quite true. Obama's natural caution and his reading of the road to re-election as being all post-partisany led to horrible (for the nation) and self destructive (for him) decisions. Dragging that process out several more years would have been a disaster. Having to focus on the 2012 election has been necessary to get Obama to face up to political realities..

Presidential systems are inherently unstable. Tinkering at the edges won't change that.

re: anti-democratic Senate

That's not a bug, it's a feature. Repeal the 17th Amendment!

The Romans' closest office to the Presidency was that of consul. To be elected a consul had to have held every other major office in government already. There were always two of them elected at the same time, and the term of office was one year, after which reelection was forbidden for the next ten years. The result (in theory at least) was that the individual office-holder was less important than larger governing coalitions and there was a larger turnover of more qualified men. I'm not at all sure that we wouldn't do better with shorter, rather than longer terms.

Counter-proposal:

Senate Term: 9 years (3 classes of 3 years) selected by the Legislatures of the States, with both houses of bicameral state legislatures meeting as one and each member casting one vote, and the tie-breaking vote if needed to be cast by the governor. Although Senators are not popularly selected, they ARE subject to popular recall (discussed below).

Presidential Term: 6 years, using the Electoral College, with the electoral votes representing Senate Seats being cast using a "winner takes all" method, and the electoral votes representing House Seats being cast according to the winning candidate of each district. Subject to popular recall, as discussed below.

House Term: 3 years, subject to popular recall, as discussed below.

Term Limits: No one can serve 2 consecutive terms in Federal Elective Office, even in two different offices; a waiting period between offices of 2 years (if the last office was a House seat), 4 years (if the last office was the Presidency), or 6 years (if the last office was a Senate seat) is required before one can again hold Federal Elective Office, and the interim employment may not involve lobbying or paid party officership. (The goal is to prevent politician's permanent membership in the "political class," at least at the Federal level.

Accountability through Popular Recall: At the end of each year except the final year of an elected official's term of office, a recall vote is possible. If validated petition signatures in favor of a recall are collected equal to 1/4 of the number of votes which the official received in winning office, then a recall election is held. Petition signature drives are privately funded and not the responsibility of government.

The official is recalled if, in the recall election, the votes in favor of recall are either (a.) a majority of the votes cast in the recall election, or (b.) a greater number of votes than the official received in winning office originally. Signature validation procedures and procedures for the partial-term replacement of the recalled office-holder to be determined by the State Legislatures.

When recalled, the official's pension is scaled down proportionate to the percentage of his term he served.

RESULT:

You get officeholders who feel accountable, because they're always staving off a very plausible threat of a recall vote. And recalled guys don't get as big a pension as those who finish still popular with their constituency.

But they don't start running against an opponent while still in office, because they never face an opponent once in office.

Everybody has to spend time outside government, once they've been in government for awhile.

All terms of office are a mite longer than they are currently.

Any comments?

The word for being beholden to the voters and the party is accountable. It's not a bad thing.

Presidents up for re-election are more accountable to their party machine, its money, and its ideology than they are to the voters. I suppose that isn't a whole lot worse than being accountable to a moody and quarter-educated electorate that is unlikely to tolerate the slightest inconvenience.

The presidents of commercial republics are more attached to their positions than they are to their parties or ideologies. Typically a bad president does less damage, and good president does more good, when he doesn't have re-election to worry about. President Obama is a leftist, true, but I think he fits the pattern of most politicians in that on most issues his convictions are shallow and malleable. First he is a man who wants to be respected as a president. He would be more willing to ditch the promises he made to the liberals who funded his election - and that's a good thing - if he weren't running for a second term.

The money that might be saved by dispensing with campaign costs is negligible, compared with that which has already been wasted by Congressionals and a President who do have to worry about re-election; imagine what they'd do without that limit.

You have it exactly backwards in this case. We have a spending and budget crisis that is driven relentlessly by voters who receive largesse from the government in one form or another. Cut over here, and one powerful group is against you; cut over there, and another powerful group is against you. Without the pressure of re-election, this president would have much more room to work with congress (which is also too democratic) to make common-sense decisions.

Imagine what the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate would have done given ten guaranteed years to work on getting the Church out of health care.

I don't see the connection. It's just as possible that political/ideological pressures to get the Church out of healthcare would be reduced. Flip a coin. The possibility of doing more good means the possibility of doing more evil. But here's the deal: Getting out of the mess we're in is going to require sacrifices that the electorate is unwilling to make. It will require some very unpopular decisions. The Tea Party, OWS, and everyone in between will be looking for someone to throw out of office. Recovery, if it happens at all, won't be achieved by politicians looking for votes.

"Stability, predictably, and familiarity...." Isn't this just another way of demanding that someone make the trains run on time?

The problem with trains running on time is what, exactly? Nevermind.

But it's deeper than that. Four years is an incredibly short learning curve for the president of the United States. We are virtually guaranteed incompetence, even with good and intelligent and experienced men, when not only do they have to master the most complex job in the world, they have to do this in just a few short months while simultaneously running for re-election. It's insanity.

Also - taking a cue from RC's ideas - it would be far better if the president were not directly elected at all. Being elected by the US Congress is perhaps dangerous in terms of creating a political indebtedness to certain congressmen or blocs of congressmen. Election by the state legislatures (giving each state one vote determined by a legislative majority) would solve this problem.

President Obama is a leftist, true, but I think he fits the pattern of most politicians in that on most issues his convictions are shallow and malleable.

I completely disagree. He's willing to ram things home, as he did with his healthcare bill, even when they are very unpopular. He is an ideologue. He has contempt for the people he governs. Giving him more time in office would be a disastrously bad move.

It's just as possible that political/ideological pressures to get the Church out of healthcare would be reduced.

The damage realistically projected from a truly convinced president who has evil ideas about the common good and political prudence would be incalculably awful, unless he were pulled up short by a decent (or better) Congress. The good to be achieved by a president truly convinced of all that is deeply right about the common good is quite modest, unless he were supported by a Congress at least decent (and it might take a Congress better than that). Given our political state of affairs, the likelihood of getting a Congress that is decent to good for more than 4 years running is virtually nil: people whose ox is being gored by the current president's set of changes (whether good or bad) will form an extremely temporary voting bloc and "vote the bums out" regardless of any long term prognosis of those very changes.

In principle, a 10-year term president plan is probably capable of working if you have suitable ancillary rules: something like the British PM's being handed a vote of no-confidence, for example. What if (just posing ideas here) after 5 years you have a referendum on the sitting president (just him, no alternative candidates), in which he remains in place if he gets 45% of the vote? If he doesn't, there is a standard full-bore election in the 6th year (current president inelible). Or any number of other mechanisms for the people (not just Congress) to get a truly awful bum out after a certain period of time.

The real problem we are seeing in American politics is that the voting public themselves are not particularly strong in personal or public virtues, and they are voting into office (both Congress and President) candidates who reflect those defects. In a truly decent society a Bill Clinton would never have been elected because decent people would not have voted for someone whose morals were so variable. Combined with that are some particularly deleterious effects of the 2-party winner take all pattern of our votes.

What we need, I think, are changes to the voting landscape that alters the 2-party winner take all system, to give people the option of having their voice heard even if they vote for a guy who isn't the leading candidate. That way, votes for truly upstanding people who might lack a little oozy charm might count with someone actually being elected. If you increase the size of a representative's district, and then seat the 3 highest vote getters, you automatically break the back of the 2 party system.

For senators, you could do something different: have both senators for a state be elected in the same year. Each voter's ballot allots them 20 points to be allocated to 3 candidates, no one of them to get more than 10 points, and the second to get no more than 7 points. The highest 2 point getters are seated as senators.

My point isn't that this particular arrangement is precisely the ideal method. My point is that until we can introduce a break between the perception of "my vote counts only if I vote for the single candidate who ends up with the most votes" with the perception "I can -barely- stomach X who I know appeals to a lot of people but I really like Y" , we are going to keep on electing candidates who are barely livable but are not actually good. The polity can tolerate a few such winners, but when they become the norm the polity is degraded at best.

No. No. No. On second thought, no.

The Elephant

P. S. I can offer a little interesting feedback on Obama's re-election... as a college student, I'm encountering some interesting reactions to Obama among my classmates, none of whom are conservative by any stretch of the imagination. They've spontaneously made jokes at his expense, and one of them said she thinks he's "horrible," even going so far as to say she "wouldn't care if he died." I was in shock! The overall attitude is one of dissatisfaction and mockery. I'm still convinced he'll be re-elected (over race guilt if nothing else), but it is interesting.

I think it's interesting to see what Al and Jeff are saying in this thread. Both of them believe that President Obama's policies would have been significantly different, and more to each of their liking, if he didn't have to worry about being reelected. But for Al, that means that he would have been _more_ ruthless, _more_ leftist. Jeff thinks he has done what he has done to appease his leftist base, so his policies would have been more moderate if he didn't have to worry about being reelected.

I tend to think he has done what he has done because he believes in it (and Al is speaking from the Planet Zeus in portraying him as some kind of triangulator), and making him free of the worries about reelection would have affected, *at most* a little bit of his rhetoric but would have given him the opportunity to do incalculable harm even beyond the incalculable harm he has already done and will do for whatever time he remains in office. And at least this way we know we'll be rid of him in eight years, rather than ten, even if he wins reelection.

I don't think Obama would have been different no matter what his circumstances.

You must realize that even now, his lack of experience, his lack of innate leadership capability, his inclination to treat others as tools, and most of all the ideological blinders forged in his red-diaper upbringing, have all driven him to govern ineffectually. He could have done the things he wanted to do more effectively than he has done. He could have done more damage than he has. But the above attributes have conspired to make him unable to see what can and can't be done, and unable to see when his own notions are wrong even when it's obvious to his friends. He believes his own press, circa 2008, to a degree that hampers his ability to govern.

A good thing for the world, that.

But it means that there are certain ways we can't use "if his circumstances were different, Obama would have acted differently" in arguing about structural changes to the office of the Presidency. Obama would not have acted differently. Now Bill Clinton would have: For him, ideology was so much chameleon-skin. And George W. Bush would have acted somewhat differently, inasmuch as he actually had ideological landmarks he could identify, although they sometimes contradicted one another. Reagan, who had a more solidly consistent ideological viewpoint, would have pursued much the same policies regardless, but he was far more sensitive to his limitations and a far better natural leader than Obama, so the way he pursued them would have changed as circumstances did.

But Obama? He's ideologically as rigid as a snake-handling fundamentalist is reputed to be, but also utterly unsophisticated about situational awareness and hamhanded in dealing with people who aren't nodding sagaciously at every pearl which drops from his lips. He'd have tried to do exactly the same things, exactly the same way. He'd have thereby done more damage, or less, to our country and the world, according to whether you restructured the Presidency with more power, or less.

So if you're looking to test (through thought experiment) what the impact of structural changes would be, Obama's not the right guy to think about. Bill Clinton, probably, is your best bet.

As for my earlier ideas...

What I was trying to do was come up with structural adjustments to solve various problems.

I think perhaps I jumped the gun, however; it would have been better to first list the problems, and see if everyone agreed that they WERE problems (and in what order of priority), and then once the problems were definitely agreed-upon, try to craft structural changes which would solve or ameliorate them.

For me, the problems include:

1. The incessant campaign-related phoniness;

2. The poor quality of person who's capable of surviving the process of going from private citizen to holder-of-elective office;

3. The deleterious impact of holding elective office and campaigning for re-election on the character of the office-holder;

4. The imbalance of Federal-to-State power, wherein through the Commerce Clause the Federal government has usurped broadly the powers which ought to belong to the states;

5. The inability of office-holders to think long-term (any change better be done by the next election; this is also a problem of CEO's looking at the stock price instead of the health of the company);

6. The need to retain accountability to the public; and,

7. The need to, as much as possible, not have a political class distinct from the average working Joe.

Anyone have other problems they think might could be solved (even partially) through term limits and similar "structural" changes?

It's true, our central government is busy busy busy, running our lives to an extent that our poor unthinking Founders simply failed to envision. There's so much more for a President to do nowadays! And Senators and Congresspersons are poking into nooks and crannies of our lives, lives of such rich complexity that even would-be savants like Jefferson and Franklin would appear mere simpletons compared to today's hip, relevant, with-it politicians, whose ever-increasingly intimate familiarity with our lives we all welcome.

When those poor benighted souls designated terms of two and six years for the legislative branch, and four, the merest sliver, really, four years for the executive, they had no idea the inadequacies they'd laid in store for our sophisticated age. The only thing they got right was lifetime appointments to the judicial branch.

The obvious thing to do is the logical and the right thing to do. Rather than fiddle with how many terms a president can have, or how long those terms can be, we should simply acknowledge that neither Congress nor the President can properly run our lives with less than lifetime appointments.

Really, George Washington should simply have accepted the crown.

Well, David, I did think of making a similar comment about lifetime appointments and monarchy...

Really, George Washington should simply have accepted the crown.

The reality is that the Presidency today is more powerful than the monarchy was since around the time of Elizabeth I. That's a hard pill for many conservatives to swallow, but the parallels between our Presidency and an authentic constitutional monarchy are profound.

I missed the day when Obama ordered Dubya's head to be lopped off. Or had Cheney sentenced to life in the Tower of Guantanamo. But I take your point- Elizabeth I didn't have nuclear submarines, so Obama's more powerful.

Obama just reserved the right to declare Americans enemies of the state and have Delta Force or the CIA take care of them...

but the parallels between our Presidency and an authentic constitutional monarchy are profound.

Mike T, isn't that an explicit design feature? That is, the Founders exactly wanted someone with executive powers to act definitively. There are important checks on that power, mostly though in the form of (a) the people after 4 years and Congress anytime can get rid of him, and (b) Congress holds the purse strings. Point (a) is not much like a constitutional monarchy.

R.C., while all of the points you mention are significant items that cause defects in the system, many of them already ARE middle ways between alternate extremes that are worse - or are the absolute natural and necessary by-products of such middle ways. For example, you can get rid of campaigns altogether if you have a hereditary nobility...oh, yeah, that was tried.

I have been toying with a really big structural change idea lately: what if you limit the voting class by a couple of criteria, instead of having everyone over the age of 18. For example (this is not original to me, the idea has been out there for a while) make it so that the electronic voting booth has you take a test first, and your vote doesn't count unless you pass the test. (Yes, I know all about the problems of "fair" tests and so on.)

Another is to make it so that you are not a voter until you get 100 people (over a number of years, not all at once) who live in a community to go down to city hall, take an oath in front of a judge, and state that they think you are an asset to the community, knowledgeable about politics and government, and they think you should be a voter.

There are other criteria available, too: for example, I fail to see why an age of 18 constitutes a natural and necessary cross-over point for a person having the right to vote. Even if it is usually the age we think of as reaching one's majority, the state has already modified what that means: you can't drink at age 18 in most states, for example. (By the way, I think that is truly bizarre, a state saying that you are old enough to get married, old enough to vote, old enough to join the military and put your life on the line, but not old enough to decide whether to drink?) Maybe the voting age should be at (or 5 years after) the point you obtain your financial independence from your parents: if you are still a dependant of them, why are you suddenly registering your opinion independently of them? Actually, this might go equally well for EVERYONE who is not financially independent: if you are on welfare and food stamps, you are do not have enough emotional / psychological independence to be deciding the fate of the nation - for you voting is an inherent conflict of interest.

Anything that introduces into the system features and processes that incline toward virtues or reduce the inclination toward vices ought to be considered.

I think the idea of a voting test is a very bad one in the current insane milieu, but raising the voting age is a good one.

Here's something I've been curious about for a while:

Back in the old days when voters voted for electors rather than directly for candidates, when the electoral college had some oomph, and when there were no running mates (the person with the second-most electoral votes was the Veep), what did a presidential ballot look like? Did it have the names of electors on it? Did one vote for them one at a time rather than in a lump?

AFAIK (correct me if I'm wrong), the waning significance of the electoral college and the whole notion of running mates and oaths by electors to vote for a party candidate have all come about without constitutional change. They've just been sort of tinkering around the edges, just within constitutional limits. Yet they've made a profound difference. Would it be an improvement or otherwise to go back to a more robust electoral college, and if it would be an improvement, how could it be brought about?

The person of Elizabeth in particular leads in the direction of musings on connections between the absolute monarchy of individualism and the feast of Christ the King. In particular, it seems not entirely coincidental that Pius XI's declaration of the feast came smack between the 1920 Lambeth Conference that strongly upheld traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and the convention a decade later that camel's-nosed in contraception and the sexual revolution, and the triumphant sexual liberation of the individual, consequent upon that liberation. It was not so many years after that that Paul VI caused a bit of a stir with Humanae Vitae.

So, no, I can't see a mere president, however dependent for much of his beliefs upon his predecessor queen, having anything like the cataclysmic influence on America that Elizabeth exercised upon us all by severing the English, king & peasant alike, from Rome.

If Obama were to order the Delta Force to bring the Justices of the high court out onto the Mall for some public Sir Thomas More haircuts, if they don't all convert to secular humanism (those who aren't already members of that church), then I'll start to see things Mike T's way.

Meanwhile, even monarch-friendly traditionalists ought to be able to see that the way the current American system is broken will be fixed by a renewed emphasis on subsidiarity, not a grotesque enabling of politicians to exercise for longer stretches more powers they shouldn't ever have grabbed away from us in the first place.

(On the comments regarding the franchise, it's hard not to like Heinlein's idea that eligibility to vote is conferred only by service in the military.)

that Elizabeth exercised upon us all by severing the English, king & peasant alike, from Rome.

Just a small historical correction: That was her father who did that.


Meanwhile, even monarch-friendly traditionalists ought to be able to see that the way the current American system is broken will be fixed by a renewed emphasis on subsidiarity, not a grotesque enabling of politicians to exercise for longer stretches more powers they shouldn't ever have grabbed away from us in the first place.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Mike T, isn't that an explicit design feature? That is, the Founders exactly wanted someone with executive powers to act definitively. There are important checks on that power, mostly though in the form of (a) the people after 4 years and Congress anytime can get rid of him, and (b) Congress holds the purse strings. Point (a) is not much like a constitutional monarchy.

Point A is also half wrong. Congress can only remove the President for criminal acts. If the President is a bumbling closet Marxist who is driving the economy off a cliff, they have no ability to lawfully remove him.

Meanwhile, even monarch-friendly traditionalists ought to be able to see that the way the current American system is broken will be fixed by a renewed emphasis on subsidiarity, not a grotesque enabling of politicians to exercise for longer stretches more powers they shouldn't ever have grabbed away from us in the first place.

Repeal the 14th!

Personally, I favor giving the states parliamentary control over the federal government's highest levels. If a state legislature issues a vote of no confidence in its congressional delegation, send them home for a new election. If 51% of the states do so with Congress, the Presidency or SCOTUS, drop everyone in those institutions and start over.

So, no, I can't see a mere president, however dependent for much of his beliefs upon his predecessor queen, having anything like the cataclysmic influence on America that Elizabeth exercised upon us all by severing the English, king & peasant alike, from Rome.

That would not be possible in the US because we've never had a national relationship with any denomination. Giving the President credit that he can't exercise such religious power that was never there in our very society to exercise is like giving a virgin credit for not getting pregnant.

Congress can only remove the President for criminal acts.

Well, for high crimes and misdemeanors. Acts that are against the law, that is, not for just being a jerk or a bad statesman.

Back in the old days when voters voted for electors rather than directly for candidates, when the electoral college had some oomph, and when there were no running mates (the person with the second-most electoral votes was the Veep), what did a presidential ballot look like? Did it have the names of electors on it? Did one vote for them one at a time rather than in a lump?

Lydia, I was under the impression that the no-running mates situation only lasted through the first 4 elections, GW and John Adams, and TJ's first term. By then they knew it was a no-go and changed it. It never was an established tradition. They changed the constitution (12th amendment), and put in running mates.

One real problem is that the process now ignores who the electors are, they are a complete irrelevancy unless something really odd comes out, like (for example) a pres candidate becoming incapacitated - or dying = between the voters' election and when the electors actually sit and are counted (around Dec. 6th or something?). Putatively in such a case the electors could put in someone else.

Okay, good correction on the 12th amendment, Tony. So, in effect (though there's no mention there of parties or running mates), that's where we got running mates.

But even so, the electors appear pretty important there, so how did the people vote for them? The same way as now--by voting for the person you want for President and Vice President, which is "the same thing as" voting for some set of electors that have promised to vote for that President and VP? Or were the electors themselves more important? And would it be good to make them more relevant, perhaps to try somehow to remove the whole mechanism of a "party oath"?

In the original, we didn't vote directly for senators either: the state legislators did. This was important, because they wanted the states qua states as parties to the federal process, not just as electoral districts. Presumably state legislators would elect senators to represent state interests in Congress.

That didn't work out too well, apparently, and was changed. I don't know why precisely, but I suspect it would apply to trying to make the electors individually, personally significant. (It would mean that we would ALSO have campaigns for electors in addition to the campaign for pres. Ugh, yet another.) Maybe if the process were more developed: where we vote for an elector whom we personally know, and let those electors (for our state) work with each other and debate for 6 months until every one of them knows the best of the electors, and send the best 5 or 6 to Washington. That group does the same thing, works with each other and the whole set of presidential candidates for 6 months in debates and discussion, and THEN they make a choice for the best of the candidates. Oh, did I mention that an elector has to (a) pay his own way the entire time, and (b) can only serve as an elector once? I am just feeling around here, but it seems to me that in order to make the elector personally significant, you need to give him space, time, and circumstances AFTER he is elected to figure out whom he really thinks is the best man for the job.

Merely THINKING about the possibility of 10 years of Obama impels me to answer with a resounding NO!

you need to give him space, time, and circumstances AFTER he is elected to figure out whom he really thinks is the best man for the job.

Yes, and I fear that would be a situation absolutely ripe for corruption and outright bribery, which would be difficult to control.

"Yes, and I fear that would be a situation absolutely ripe for corruption and outright bribery, which would be difficult to control."

Agreed, Tony's latest proposal is jaw-dropping horrific. Why not just own up to the reality that presidential systems are inherently unstable as are federal systems that become too democratically unbalanced.

There is a reason most nations go to a parliamentary system. We should keep in mind that the folks who wrote the Constitution were trail-blazers who were working under difficult circumstances with limited precedents.

BTW, my understanding of the Electoral College is that it never worked as intended. We went to parties almost from the start and folks always understood that their vote was for a specific person.

"I think the idea of a voting test is a very bad one in the current insane milieu, but raising the voting age is a good one."

Actually a number of states are moving to discourage voting under the ruse of limiting voter fraud.

"(and Al is speaking from the Planet Zeus in portraying him as some kind of triangulator)"

Then you need to explain (partial list) the debt ceiling fiasco, the re-appointment of Ben Bernanke, the failure to make a significant number of recess appointments, a stimulus tilted towards tax cuts, the failure to deal harshly with the financial sector, and a conservative health care law.

and a conservative health care law.

Bwahahahahhah!

Al, you're killing us. Obama made only those concessions to his health care liberal theory that were needed to even have a chance at passing. At that he had to twist arms off, and scream bloody murder to his own party, to finally get enough votes. Not a real conservative voted for the bill. Please, your filter on the facts doesn't pass the 6 year-old-child laughter test. Oh, wait, was that irony? Shooot, and I missed it. Must be the tryptophan residue.

"Not a real conservative voted for the bill."

Oh Tony, perhaps it's more than the tryptophan residue. Actually you have a credibility problem here. I'll kick this back to you for reconsideration with the following thoughts,

Are you aware that the only folks you would likely consider "real conservatives" are republicans?

Are you aware that the Republican strategy is to attempt to deny Obama re-election and the path to that goal is to deny him any legislative or policy wins?

Are you aware that things like cap and trade, insurance mandates, and exchanges are conservative ideas? The ACA is basically what Romney passed in Massachusetts?

Here is the Heritage Foundation on Romney's plan (you would do well to ponder the comments on the compromise),

"Politics is the art of the possible, and Governor Romney had to temper his ambitions and make compromises to get his plan through the state's legislature. At the same time, many Democrats in the legislature set aside their misgivings about some of the elements of the Governor's proposal, such as its steps toward deregulating insurance, out of a desire not to lose a big piece of Massachusetts's federal Medicaid funding. With time and experience, revisions can and should be made to this initial legislation."

"But that should not overshadow the significance of Massachusetts' achievement in enacting a bipartisan health care reform bill that fundamentally shifts the state's health care system in the direction of greater patient and consumer empowerment and control. The Governor and legislature have provided their citizens with the tools to achieve what the public really wants: a health system with all the familiar comforts of existing employer group coverage but with the added benefits of portability, choice, and control."

"Other governors and legislators would be well advised to consider this basic model as a framework for health care reform in their own states."

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/04/the-significance-of-massachusetts-health-reform

Are you aware that compromise is and always has been part of the political process?

Are you aware you have a circular argument?

The reality is Obama is at best a center lefty. He would easily qualify as a moderate to liberal Republican by earlier standards.

Well, Mike T, if the president doesn't have the kind of power Elizabeth did, then he doesn't have more power than monarchs around the time of Elizabeth did, does he?

Lydia- yes, Henry started the break, killing a few men like St Thomas More; it took an Elizabeth to kill dozens of men like St Edmund Campion and women like St Margaret Clitherow.

I completely disagree. He's willing to ram things home, as he did with his healthcare bill, even when they are very unpopular.

It seems to me that healthcare reform in general - and specifically, government-oriented proposals such as guaranteed coverage for the uninsured - was quite popular before some of the details of Obamacare became known. See this 2009 Time poll: http://tinyurl.com/nwuvta

So I think it's obvious that President Obama was pushing hard to make his mark before the next election. That was the rush. Otherwise, why risk the enormous potential for legal problems and a long-term backlash with something as hackneyed, sloppy, and complicated as this bill, passed by a Congress that didn't even have the time to read it or digest the likely consequences.

He is an ideologue. He has contempt for the people he governs.

He has contempt for some of the people he governs; the rest are his own kind. That's probably true of every president.

Giving him more time in office would be a disastrously bad move.

Like you, I don't want Obama to have another ten minutes in office. But this proposal isn't about Obama. It's about minimizing the incentives for presidential mischief and maximizing the potential for good. More importantly, it's about giving the next president the ability to reverse some of the wreckage of his predecessors, without worrying overmuch about disaffecting the growing millions whose prosperity depends, in some way, on the largesse of federal programs. When it comes to bad presidents, even an ideologue has to work with congress and win the cooperation of people who disagree with him. This will slow him down if he doesn't have to appease party activists.

Once upon a time conservatives were grown-ups who respected Authority, believed in Authority, defended Authority, and most importantly, knew how to wield Authority when it was theirs. Now, it seems, conservatives have adopted the reflexive hard-left anti-authoritarianism of the 1960s, perhaps out of a fear that the world has run out of grown-ups. And maybe it has.

This will slow him down if he doesn't have to appease party activists.

Not if he's trying to do what he's trying to do for his own reasons rather than to "appease party activists." I think Tony said it well upthread:


The damage realistically projected from a truly convinced president who has evil ideas about the common good and political prudence would be incalculably awful, unless he were pulled up short by a decent (or better) Congress.

Jeff, you say,

Once upon a time conservatives were grown-ups who respected Authority, believed in Authority, defended Authority, and most importantly, knew how to wield Authority when it was theirs. Now, it seems, conservatives have adopted the reflexive hard-left anti-authoritarianism of the 1960s, perhaps out of a fear that the world has run out of grown-ups.

Now, this does rather annoy me. Consider: The 4-year presidential term was in the Constitution of 1789! Call the American founders any number of things, but "hard-left anti-authoritarians of the 1960's" doesn't fit in any sensible person's book. It was George Washington who voluntarily did not seek reelection for a third term. The limit of a total of eight years also pre-dated the 60's and was in response to the fact that FDR didn't share George Washington's love of restraint. It certainly wasn't an expression of hard-left anti-authoritarianism. In fact, if one were to decide which, of FDR or George Washington, was farther to the left...well... What about hard-left authoritarianism, anyone?

No, what you're up against here, Jeff, is not "hard-left anti-authoritarianism of the 1960's." It's a set of concepts that came with the territory of our country and that is the rightful heritage of U.S. conservatism--concepts like balance of powers and checks and balances. The founders were all about preventing governmental harm. Their entire approach to governance showed that they were more concerned about limiting the amount of harm that could be done by government than about empowering the government to do more good.

I certainly agree with you that our federal govt. overreach has given the leftists many clients in the forms of (supposed) beneficiaries of their bread and circuses and that weaning the nation off of that borrowed (or faux) largesse is going to be exceedingly difficult.

Increasing the term of the presidency in order to give the President more authority is certainly not going to solve that problem. If anything it is highly likely to worsen it. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that it's likely to worsen it even if a Republican were elected. Let's not forget the new goodies George W. Bush passed out during his term in office, to which people are now addicted.

The reality is Obama is at best a center lefty. He would easily qualify as a moderate to liberal Republican by earlier standards.

(Sigh.) Al, there is no way in the world Obama would qualify as any kind of Republican if you took a look at Republicans as of, say, 1955 or 1960. It is much more realistic to say that John McCain, that "moderate" of Republicans, held positions that would have qualified him as a moderate Democrat back in 1965.

Are you aware that the only folks you would likely consider "real conservatives" are republicans?

Simply WRONG. There are tons and tons and gazillions of conservatives who wouldn't be caught dead in the Republican party.

Are you aware that the Republican strategy is to attempt to deny Obama re-election and the path to that goal is to deny him any legislative or policy wins?

I am aware that this has been a strategic ploy for quite some time, since before Nixon most likely (when I became aware of politics). It has indeed gotten more pointed, but only along a continuum. And I have decried it wherever I have seen it, including when I see Republicans employing the tactic to defeat a reasonable attempt at legislation.

The ACA is basically what Romney passed in Massachusetts?

Well, not quite. But whoever said that Romney was a conservative? Being "more conservative" than Obama (or McCain) is a comparative, not a simple adjective. Romney is a Republican, and that bears hardly at all on whether he is a conservative.

It's about minimizing the incentives for presidential mischief and maximizing the potential for good. More importantly, it's about giving the next president the ability to reverse some of the wreckage of his predecessors, without worrying overmuch about disaffecting the growing millions whose prosperity depends, in some way, on the largesse of federal programs.

Jeff, you may be right on one hand and possibly wrong on the other. The way I see it, it is fundamentally and inherently an issue of tension, giving the chief executive enough authority to achieve something useful, and constraining his authority within boundaries to prevent a run-away despot taking hold. The purpose of the 4-year-annual vote was to require the president to put up proof that he is using his power for the right reasons, the idea being that letting him go significantly longer without that check is dangerous.

It so happens that in the course of 200 years of development, more and more of governmental action requires a good deal more than 2-to-4 years to even figure out whether the effort is working, makes sense, has a chance to succeed. So ever more of policy decisions are subject to a constant see-saw of election politics where there is no conclusive evidence to show that the policy was a good one - or not. As a result, a president is forced to "prove" his wisdom and uprightness in a period in which the results cannot realistically be expected to establish the truth clearly.

On the other hand, is a period of 8 or 10 years WITHOUT having to answer to voters enough time to consolidate sufficient power to wreak havoc with the system, undermine its ability to function? And does having a certainty of no follow-up, no possible re-election, give the chief an overwhelming temptation to make sure that there is no next election at all? The answers to these questions are debatable, for sure. At the moment, we might have sufficient stock of virtue in politics to prevent the first, maybe even the second 10-year president from becoming a dictator. Do you really think you have enough foresight to predict that the 3rd one out wouldn't, because the political situation would improve enough to prevent it? I don't. For one thing, we have lost too much of the public virtues, and have destroyed too much shared understanding of the common good. If we already had a great return to public virtues, we might justly have a measure of confidence in our ability to deal with a 10-year presidency, but we won't GET that virtue by changing the term to 10 years.

Tony, I'd go even farther: George Washington considered it unwise to have a 3-term President back when we had lots of public virtues. It's really, in my opinion, a matter of fallen human nature, of which the founders had a very strong sense. Hence checks and balances, etc. To put it differently: Gridlock is a good thing.

I'm not sure I agree about how difficult it is to see if various policies are good ones and how one needs to try them for years and see. Most of the disastrous policies put into place in recent decades, including Obamacare, have been said to be disastrous in advance. Waiting and seeing often just means (as Tony mentions) entrenching. And if something is even as plausibly disastrous as many large-scale government plans are, plans of which we're told we need many years to see the benefits, it shouldn't be put into place in the first place out of prudence. As a voter, I will rightly judge a President on what I consider to be his prudence or imprudence in such matters, whether or not the long-term effects of his policies have had time to spin out. I would take No Child Left Behind to be a good example here (and enthusiastically promoted by a Republican President, I might add). It was a terrible idea, one could tell that it was a terrible idea, and I held it against GWB even though we hadn't had time to see its consequences.

Oh, cool!

And, while we're at it, why don't we start calling him "Your Majesty"?

re: anti-democratic Senate

That's not a bug, it's a feature. Repeal the 17th Amendment!


Indeed!

including Obamacare, have been said to be disastrous in advance.

Well, you and I know it is disastrous in advance. But it got passed, so a majority of Congress (after all the buy-offs) thought it wasn't.

Take the war in Afghanistan, for example: lots of people in November 2001 thought is was good and necessary. Some didn't, including some conservatives (though not all that many). After years of mistakes there, a lot more people now think the war was a bad idea to begin with. But you won't get more than 30% agreement on any of: (a) it was good to begin with, and mistakes in prosecution turned it bad, or (b) it was good for us even in spite of the mistakes, (c) it was bad from the start, or (d) it would have been good had we not also gone into Iraq. It's not easy to project that we will ever have a real consensus about it, unlike most of our prior wars, but if we do it will take time.

Also - taking a cue from RC's ideas - it would be far better if the president were not directly elected at all. Being elected by the US Congress is perhaps dangerous in terms of creating a political indebtedness to certain congressmen or blocs of congressmen. Election by the state legislatures (giving each state one vote determined by a legislative majority) would solve this problem.
In other words, essentially the system we already have.

The solution is to undo much, or even most, of the "progressive" "democratization" of our polity.

That is one of those solutions which is worse than the problem.

You will look in vain for a President whose defects did not grow with age.

The great problem in American democracy since 1933 has been an executive branch which has the power necessary in Empire. To eliminate the executive branch for four years would make more sense than to extend its power for ten.

It's not easy to project that we will ever have a real consensus about it, unlike most of our prior wars, but if we do it will take time.

Well, but as I understand it, the concept here is to *continue with the policy* to grant the necessary time to come to a consensus about whether it's good or bad. Now, I think that's a terrible idea, whether one is talking about a war or a domestic policy. If the war in Afghanistan is, as it is now being carried out, doing more harm than good, or not worth it, etc., now is the time to make those arguments and to stop what we're doing.

We certainly should *not* grant that policies must be left in place for a long time before they can be justly evaluated.

I would try hard to be even-handed about this. I would not say it about a policy I advocate. For example, I advocate phasing out social security starting with means testing and then going to gradual opt-out provisions for younger workers. I would _never_ say that the only fair way to proceed would be to enact the policy and wait for many years to "see how it went." That's a "laboratory" approach that I think is very dangerous. My opponents would justly say that by then a lot of damage (from their perspective) would have been done.

"I completely disagree. He's willing to ram things home, as he did with his healthcare bill, even when they are very unpopular."

If this is the case then you have to explain why the Democrats failed to use Reconciliation to its full advantage in 2009 - 10.

"It seems to me that healthcare reform in general - and specifically, government-oriented proposals such as guaranteed coverage for the uninsured - was quite popular before some of the details of Obamacare became known. See this 2009 Time poll: http://tinyurl.com/nwuvta"

Jeff, you have hit upon a major problem; one that tinkering with the Constitution can't fix. The phenomenon you describe still exists, currently in this form: If pollsters ask, "do you like 'Obamacare'", they get a lower level of approval then if they ask their subjects about the separate provisions of the bill. The reason for this is that our MSM has been cowed into stenography, i.e. they docilely pass on lies without comment, while conservative organs like Fox simply lie. A majority approves of the ACA (including the mandate) while disapproving of "Omamacare."

"(Sigh.) Al, there is no way in the world Obama would qualify as any kind of Republican if you took a look at Republicans as of, say, 1955 or 1960. It is much more realistic to say that John McCain, that "moderate" of Republicans, held positions that would have qualified him as a moderate Democrat back in 1965."

All of the below would be considered liberals by conservatives today and even yesterday except for my first example who was, as every conservative knows, an outright conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.

1. Dwight D. Eisenhower. "You keep harping on the Constitution; I should like to point out that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. Consequently no powers are exercised by the Federal government except where such exercise is approved by the Supreme Court (lawyers) of the land...Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid..."

http://urbanlegends.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.eisenhowermemorial.org/presidential-papers/first-term/documents/1147.cfm

2. Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

3. Thomas Kuchel

4. Nelson Rockefeller

5. John Lindsay

6. George Romney

7. Jacob Javits

8. Kenneth Keating

9. Lowell Weicker

10. Richard Nixon - would have agreed to a health plan well to the left of your despised Romney/Obamacare, signed all sorts of environmental legislation, instituted economic controls, was open to a guaranteed minimum income, raised taxes.

11. Etc.

"I am aware that this has been a strategic ploy for quite some time, since before Nixon most likely (when I became aware of politics). It has indeed gotten more pointed, but only along a continuum."

Not at all. It does not seem to register with most of you that now is really different from then. The current Republican strategy is a real departure from previous practice. Our Constitution is structurally predicated on the nonexistence of factions and ideologies. The Founders quaintly believed that future men of affairs could transcend their differences and compromise for the common good much as they had.

Even with the rise of parties this is what mostly happened with the exception of the period that led up to the Civil War and the present. Tony, that an American political party would deliberately sabotage the economy for political advantage is not a mere extension of business as usual; it is better described as a form of insurrection enabled by greed, malice and a willingness to take advantage of a flawed Constitution and a cowardly media.

(I digress, but isn't it strange that both examples of treason, insurrection, and rebellion come from parties in the thrall of conservatism and our Southern region? Just asking :).)

"Simply WRONG. There are tons and tons and gazillions of conservatives who wouldn't be caught dead in the Republican party."

Tony, you wrote, "Not a real conservative voted for the bill." I was clearly responding to that comment. There are only two independents in the Senate and none in the House. Bernie Sanders is a socialist and Joe Liberman is himself. Shame on you for playing Calvinball.

"Well, not quite."

Examples, please (it seems the chap who advised both Romney and Obama disagrees with you)?

"But whoever said that Romney was a conservative?"

He does but that's besides the point; you conveniently ignore the quotes from Heritage. Or isn't the Heritage Foundation conservative?

"Most of the disastrous policies put into place in recent decades, including Obamacare, have been said to be disastrous in advance."

This is true and we should have listened to the conservatives who told us that things like the Clean Air Act and the Clinton tax increase were going to cause unemployment and wreck the economy - oh!

Well, maybe we should have listened to the liberals who told us that things like the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq War were going to end in tears. Hummmm, maybe there's a lesson here.

All of the below would be considered liberals by conservatives today

4. Nelson Rockefeller
...
7. Jacob Javits

Al, I am unsure of the others. For the above two, I can say this for certain: my father (definitely conservative) considered Rocky and Javits a long, long ways away from conservativism. I heard him berate Rockefeller's ideas over the dinner table regularly, and thought that Republicans should have run him out of the party. It was very, very clear even back then that the reason these guys were elected was due to their popularity with Democrats. So, if your point is that there have been RINOs for a long time, I agree with you. These guys were considered liberals by conservatives at the time, too.

Our Constitution is structurally predicated on the nonexistence of factions and ideologies.

Well, maybe not. Here's what Jimmy Madison said: (Federalist #10)

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

I think it is safe to say that the Constitution is not predicated on an absence of factions.

However, in a strange and remarkable coincidence, Al is not wholly wrong in his point: the Constitution was designed without (and would work much better without) the all-encompassing Party. The historical development of the 2-party system is surely a situation that is poorly compatible with the Constitution as designed.

Tony, you wrote, "Not a real conservative voted for the bill." I was clearly responding to that comment. There are only two independents in the Senate and none in the House....Shame on you for playing Calvinball.

Sorry, Al, my mistake. I failed to think through how your comment referred back to Congress.

How about leaving the Constitution alone and letting the voters suffer the government they elect? You can't fix a republic anyway if voters won't elect men of good character.

"The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source..."

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp

Madison didn't contemplate the willingness of slave power,the current Republican Party, or American Christianists to crash the national project, hence the system he created has problems dealing with their emergence. The former brought us the Civil War; the latter seek a one party system.

Our Constitution is structurally predicated on the nonexistence of factions and ideologies. The Founders quaintly believed that future men of affairs could transcend their differences and compromise for the common good much as they had.

It is really hard to grapple with ignorance on this scale. We might as well say that Christianity is structurally predicated on the nonexistence of sin, or Judaism structurally predicated on the nonexistence of the Jewish people.

That John Lindsay or Lowell Weicker could ever be considered anything other than liberal is a propositional I'll let Al dance around to defend if he dares. A comparable demonstration of clownishness would entail Al assuring us that poor William F. Buckley was just plain wrong to think that no conservative was running for New York City Mayor in 1965 before he got in.

Meanwhile, on the matter of "crashing the national project," until Al is prepared to read his same pedantic lecture on patriotism to the hippies at OWS, I'll content myself with the usual amusement at his sophistries.

The amusement in this particular rendition lies in this, that dear Al has all at once argued that the AMERICAN SYSTEM is too sick to endure, that it is a mere nonentity on account of the Founders' pitiful naivety about human politics, and that it is unthinkable treason to desire the end of said system.

These cannot all be true. Certainly if our system is as sick as Al and his friends say it is, it cannot be wholly vicious and seditious to ask hard questions about how long we ought to carry on with the charade. Or again, if indeed The Federalist truly proffers us a quaint politics innocent of faction and ideology, then by all means THROW THE EFFING BOOK OUT THE WINDOW, because it's talking pulverizing nonsense. If America set up a Republic "predicated" on the "nonexistence of factions and ideologies," then the only sane men are the ones who want to "crash the project."

Good heavens, Al, you're wanting for elementary logic.

Paul, I don't get the pulverizing emotion. I'm sure that upon a moments reflection you will see that there is a certain difference between analyzing something in the context of experience with an eye towards the commonweal and exploiting weaknesses with an eye towards gaining advantage for a few. Asking "hard questions" is one thing, coups and insurrection are another.

"...the Founders' pitiful naivety about human politics..."

No, ideologically driven political parties were in the future as were the technologies that blew through this calculus:

"The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source..."

There are disadvantages to being first. We now know that presidential systems are inherently unstable when ideology is abroad in the land. While the project required federalism and multiple veto points to be agreed to in the first place, those compromises were akin to building a house on unconnected piers in California - it may stay up longer than you think but you wouldn't build it that way with what we know now.

Without Washington the project would have never gotten a lasting start and absent Jackson's willingness to hang Calhoun and Lincoln's willingness to go to war it would be long gone. We drew the long straw again with Roosevelt but our luck may have run out.

"That John Lindsay or Lowell Weicker could ever be considered anything other than liberal is a propositional I'll let Al dance around to defend if he dares. A comparable demonstration of clownishness would entail Al assuring us that poor William F. Buckley was just plain wrong to think that no conservative was running for New York City Mayor in 1965 before he got in."

I don't get the pulverizing incoherence in the above statement. Liberals and moderates once had a place in the Republican Party. Not so much anymore. That party becoming ideologized is at the core of our present difficulties.

",,,patriotism to the hippies at OWS..."

Given a choice between the plutocrats and the rest of us, Paul makes his choice.

I would not rate the Republican Party "becoming ideologized" among even our top 25 "present difficulties."

Liberals and moderates once had a place in the Republican Party. Not so much anymore.

Except that that is not what you said above. You're moving the goalposts. Above you said that [a bunch of liberal GOPers] "would be considered liberals by conservatives today," which the implication that they were not so considered in their own day. My response was that, in fact, they were considered liberals by conservatives in their own day, too. Thus the example of the 1965 NYC Mayoral race. No one in his right mind ever considered John Lindsay anything but a liberal.

Also, two can play at this game. Pro-lifers and folks adhering to a traditional view of human sexuality once had a place in the Democratic Party. Not any more. On certain matters, we have very polarized political parties. Big whoop.

I'd love to have two pro-life parties. Alas, reality rarely submits to my wishes. On other matters, of course, the parties have converged. Intervention abroad for purposes separate from national interest is a default position for Republicans and Democrats. The isolationist, long potent faction in American foreign policy, has been almost completely driven from the field.

ideologically driven political parties were in the future

At the very most about a decade in future. Or was there no ideological content to the controversy headlined by the Alien and Sedition Acts?

I'll grant that the election of 1800 was rather unique in human history as a bitter confrontation between ideological polarized parties that resulted ultimately in a peaceful transfer of power. But this uniqueness is precisely an emanation of the new science of politics announced in America.

We now know that presidential systems are inherently unstable when ideology is abroad in the land.

We also know that it was the mid-century liberals who undertook to convert our presidential elections into massive national plebiscites, with programmatic national parties competing for an ideological "mandate." If Al would like to roll back these liberal innovations, I'm right there with him. We could do away with direct election of Senators while we're at it.

The aggravation of my previous comment was the consequence of wondering how so obviously intelligent a guy could honestly operate from such fallacious premises, like the premise that the Founders were innocent of the problem of partisanship and factional interest.

The reference to OWS hippies was not to denigrate them. The best of them are simply bewildered unemployed folks acting based on their best estimate of their own interest. They need a job and adjudge Wall Street to be an impediment to that interest. The irony is that elsewhere Al is accusing anyone who links interest with politics of insurrection and sedition, which is why I'm waiting patiently for him to lecture the hippies on the importance of the commonweal. To this irony Al adds the astounding claim that the Founders were just too quaint in their thinking to even conceive of any linkage between politics and interest.

On the contrary, the Founders were so earthy in their thinking that they were the first to propose that linkage as a productive rather than destructive force, given the right framework.

Now, Al and I do probably agree that this framework is under some pretty severe pressure right now. However, obscurities remain in his treatment of that problem. One is whether he thinks that said framework ought to be maintained. Another is how his picture of human political reality can even supply an intelligible language of "ought," and thus why people who dishonorably put politics in the service of their factional interest ought to be censured and restrained.

There is another related obscurity. If we may presume that Al sympathizes with OWS, that is, with this particular disorderly protest against the regnant authorities, then it follows that on a big issue of the day Al sides not with order and preservation of the status quo, but rather with those seeking to drastically revise, even overthrow the status quo.

Given that, we are authorized to take his lectures against insurrection, coups, sedition and the rest with a sizable pinch of salt.

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