Friday, September 5, 2008

The American Presidency

The authors of our constitution did an interesting thing in creating the executive branch of our government.

A number of democracies have systems where a party or coalition of parties gains a majority and then is able to run the government.  The leader of the party or a leader chosen by the coalition is the executive in charge.  If the party or coalition loses majority support the entire government changes.

But we don't do it that way.  We elect an individual.  Actually we elect two individuals.

There are not many qualification requirements.  The person has to be 35 years of age and a natural citizen of the United States and a resident for at least 14 years.  Oh, and there's a term limit.

The method of actually selecting the president and vice-president has changed.  Originally electors were chosen by each state and then the electors each cast two votes, one of which had to be for someone not in their own state.  All the names and votes were tabulated and the one with the most votes became the President and the one with the next most became the Vice-President.

It was changed in 1804 so that each elector had to cast a separate vote for President and Vice-President.

The first election I remember anything about was the 1952 election.  I was just 4 but I remember the names "Estes Kefauver" and "Adlai Stevenson."  But I have much clearer memories of the 1956 election.  For one thing Dad brought home a TV that year and David Brinkley and Chet Huntley covered that election on TV.  Anyway I remember thinking that the guy with the most votes ought to be President and the guy with the next most ought to be Vice-President.  It's kind of good to know I wasn't the first one to think of it.

Anyway I was thinking about this entire idea of our presidency and our constitution and so on.  Often you hear someone say something like "this election should be about the issues."  And then still other people say "yeah it should but it isn't" and shake their heads and make sad expressions about it.

But when you think about how the framers of the constitution designed the thing our system really does not depend on issues.  That would be like the parliamentary systems where the whole government changes.

But we elect individuals and we do it on purpose.

I think the reason we do it is to select the best leader we can find for the given time and circumstances.  The times and circumstances are important factors, too.  It is a mystery to me how it enters into the equation but it definitely does.  In other words Tom Jefferson was right for his time but he might not be right for our time.  I think that is truly a fascinating aspect of the entire political process.

Further I think that there is also a purpose to the few qualifications for the office.  Mainly I think the reason is to force the race to be decided politically.  That means the candidate that can put together the most effective organization and garner the greatest support becomes the leader.  And yest that even includes shenanigans and negative comments and anything else that is legal or sometimes not even quite legal.

It is kind of a trial by practical, political fire.  I think it is breathtaking in its simplicity and effectiveness.

Personally I think the old system of voting for two people and then the one with the most votes would be Pres and the next would be Vice-Pres.  But that isn't the way it is.

And the way we have it now is that the person who wins the presidential nomination gets to choose whomever he wants to serve as his (or her) Vice-President.

Now this, also, is a political decision.  If the candidate's choice helps secure the office then it is a good one.  It really is that simple.

And what if the top person is a horrible President?  Then we get rid of her or him in 4 years.  And what happens if the second person has to be President and is horrible?  Then we get rid of him or her in less than 4 years.  

My conclusion is that Barack Obama is very qualified to be President of the United States.  Why?  Because he won the political process of his party.   

My further conclusion is that John McCain is very qualified to be President of the United States.  Why?  Because he won the political process of his party.

I've heard commentators opine that winning a primary election is not a very significant qualification.  Well, that's just BS.  It is the only qualification that matters.  Period.

What about the VP candidates?  Well, take the choice into account.  If you think McCain chose so badly that you cannot support him then vote for Obama.  If you think Obama chose so badly that you cannot support him then vote for McCain.  If the decision is not catastrophic for you then weigh it in the mix. 

I looked some stuff up about Vice-Presidents.  There have been 9 who succeeded to the office of President.  5 of them didn't run or weren't nominated or were defeated for a subsequent term.

That's all my thinking about this subject, at least for now.  


~Betsy said...

I agree with your comment about the right president for the times. You always have such interesting thoughts!

Lori1955 said...

Now that's what I call a fair and balanced post. ;)