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News A Novel Reform Proposal of the National Election Process

  1. Dec 9, 2011 #1


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    Each state gets to select how they pick their electors based on whatever method they want. Imagine if they made it an auction: people can give money to the state, and whoever gives the most money by the election wins (you can give money in support of a candidate). Anybody is eligible to give money. Last election cycle 2.4 billion dollars was spent on advertising, in this scenario all that money would be spent trying to buy electoral votes instead, raising 50 million dollars per state. With such a direct link between cash and electoral success, it's plausible to envision even more money being raised. 100 million dollars? 150 million dollars?

    In actuality that's not a lot of money divided up over 4 years to most states; even apportioning it proportionally according to population. Would it be worth allowing such decrepit levels of corruption in the highest office? But consider that the cost of all the congressional elections in 2008 was a tad under 3 billion dollars in 2008


    You could take that money and enforce public financing on all congressional elections without actually decreasing the amount of money that candidates are spending on average. Imagine a Congress in which no member has to do fundraising or be beholden to special interest groups that helped them get elected.

    Question: Would you support this electoral college reform? It doesn't seem to me like the level of corruption on the presidential level would actually spike - it would be impossible to get such a disparate group of people to put their financing behind a single individual if that individual wasn't a legitimate politician.

    For example if Apple wanted to buy the presidency, they might decide to devote 10 billion dollars to the problem. A conglomerate of Apple competitors would then decide they don't really like this idea, so they're going to raise money to combat this possibility. They could put forth their own candidate, but it would be cheaper to simply push a legitimate candidate who already has a billion dollars of fundraising to spend. Especially since Apple isn't the only one who wants to buy the presidency - maybe Walmart wants to buy it also, so all of Walmart's competitors decide to pony up some cash to elect a president as well. If they joined forces with Apple's competitors then Apple's and Walmart's competitors would be able to select their own president for very little money each relative to what Apple and Walmart spent just to lose.

    Eventually you would have fundraising networks between different corporations and people that want to elect a president that is more beholden to their interests, which doesn't seem to be very different than the system we have today
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  3. Dec 9, 2011 #2
    Ever read the book Jennifer Government by Max Barry? (even without the political conversation I would recommend someone interested in alternate-futures to read it)

    I think that is the world that you're envisioning.
  4. Dec 9, 2011 #3
    The Supreme Court ruled that since money was free speech, that privately funded candidates could not be limited in their spending. The stated rationale was to maximize freedom of speech.

    Arizona passed a law that all candidates could be publicly funded by an equal amount. If outspent by a private candidate then matching public funds would be provided to equal the amount spent by the private candidate. The Supreme Court declared this an infringement on the free speech rights of the private candidate(s). The Constitution guarantees an advantage in elections to private candidates with more funds.

    The Los Angeles recently unanimously voted in favor of a constitutional amendment striking down both the money = free speech ruling, and the granting of constitutional rights to for-profit corporations. I think that there is a good chance for this.
  5. Dec 9, 2011 #4
    It isn't clear to me what Office_Shredder is advocating. Or what PatrickPowers is saying. The status quo is that the more money one is able to spend on one's campaign, the more likely one is to be elected -- barring flubs in national debates and the discovery and revelation of past transgressions, or just generally appearing to be an idiot of sorts.

    This is the system. Is there anything wrong with it? How might it be changed for the better?
  6. Dec 10, 2011 #5
    The Supreme Court has ruled that the people may not use government to regulate spending on political advertising during campaigns. Since this is the primary campaign expense, the ruling effectively made campaign finance reform illegal.

    There is a movement gathering for a constitutional amendment to enable government to regulate campaign spending, and deny constitutional rights to corporations.
  7. Dec 10, 2011 #6
    Ok, so the SCotUS has upheld the oligarchical status quo. No surprise there. The SCotUS is a political instrument. So much for the ostensible separation of powers.

    It would seem so.

    I doubt this will get very far. What do you think?
  8. Dec 10, 2011 #7
    It won't happen if we don't try. If you continue to let Them roll over you, they will continue to roll over you. "Well, kids, I figured it might not work, so I didn't do anything."
  9. Dec 10, 2011 #8
    Ok, good point. The mass electorate actually does have the collective power to change things ... drastically. The problem is that it's largely comfortable and complacent/apathetic.
  10. Dec 10, 2011 #9


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    Throw away the voting process for president. If Obama gives 50 million dollars to New Hampshire and Gingrich gives 40 million dollars to New Hampshire, Obama gets New Hampshire's electoral votes
  11. Dec 10, 2011 #10
    Less so every day. There is a limit.

    A few years back the Occupy Wall Street movement would have been nothing. Now it hit a big resonance. Many have reached their limit.

    My reading of history is that big sudden changes come when the people get hungry. Not metaphorically, it's when they don't have enough food. When their bellies rumble, they get riled up and big changes occur fast. You see this again and again in revolutions and social upheavals like the Great Depression, the big exception being the USA revolution.
  12. Dec 10, 2011 #11
    This has occurred to me as well. How much would the government of the United States go for at open auction? 100 Billion dollars? One trillion? More?

    We might find out. After the Supreme Court ruling federal campaign spending doubled from one billion to two. Since the government of the United States is worth a huge amount of money, there is no limit in that direction. You might think that the limit would be media saturation, there is only so much media time for sale. But this is incorrect. The price of said time would increase by a factor of ten, one hundred, or more at election time. It might not be a very good deal, but if you want to buy the government of the USA you have to pay.

    I say that in an internal auction the price might be 200 billion per election. If foreign government were allowed to bid -- and since they can always bid through proxies, this would be hard to prevent -- then the price could exceed one trillion dollars.

    But look at the bright side. Auctioning off the government would decrease the deficit significantly without a tax increase. Isn't that what we want?
  13. Dec 11, 2011 #12
    It's an extreme case of dollar voting, and I think I've seen it also described somewhere on Wikipedia as a libertarian thought. But I don't think it would work. I have the feeling a democracy functions because, ultimately, the true power of a nation is in the hands of the individuals who make up that nation. And since democracy follows the lead of all those individuals thinking about the best course of action, it is therefor the most stable. This seems contrary to that. I expect that if you put the decision power into the hands of the few with money, the system would destabilize (like how feudalism was abandoned) and implode.
  14. Dec 13, 2011 #13
    In such systems.... In the words of Noam Chomsky, "In El Salvador there are plenty of security guards."
  15. Dec 13, 2011 #14


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    No offence but this sounds like a horrific idea. You're proposing a straight up plutocracy. As someone who comes from a country with strict limits on campaign budgets (IIRC one US senate seat involves more cash than the entire UK election) the idea that politics and wealth should be so intertwined is anathema.
  16. Dec 14, 2011 #15
    Yes. I'm fairly certain he is doing a Swift here. Which is fine with me. Thanks for the fact. The US does good anathema, doesn't it? If nothing else it serves as a worldwide font of amusement/amazement/horror/despair/entertainment.
  17. Dec 14, 2011 #16


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    Swift? Something's maybe getting lost crossing the Atlantic...
  18. Dec 14, 2011 #17


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    Originally, the Constitution specified that Senators would be elected by state legislatures; not directly by voters.

    By time a Constitutional amendment was passed in Congress to make Senators elected by direct vote, 29 of the 48 states (including newly admitted New Mexico & Arizona) were already essentially electing Senators by direct election by one work around or another.

    The most common work around was simply to require state legislators to cast their Senator vote for whichever candidate won the general election - the same work around to ensure a state's electors cast their electoral vote for whichever candidate wins the general Presidential election in their state.

    What this means is that while there weren't enough Senators in the Senate elected by direct election to pass a Constitutional amendment by themselves, there were enough that it didn't take many legislature electees to defect to the direct election side. Most Senators elected by state legislatures were adamantly against changing the election process that put them in office.

    US Supreme Court decision make it very unlikely that states will be able to change their own campaign finance laws, making it very unlikely that you get Congressmen elected that would be willing to support a Constitutional amendment that would change the current election process - at least not anywhere near enough Congressmen to get the amendment through Congress.
  19. Dec 16, 2011 #18
    I prefer election by random lot. We could pre-qualify candidates by requiring that they get 50 signatures on their nomination petition. I mean this for all offices president to dog catcher.
  20. Dec 16, 2011 #19


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    You mean a Demarchy/Lottocracy? I can see some of the merits but the disadvantages massively outweigh any advantage. What happens when a 19-year-old party animal who's never watched the news in his life gets elected Prime Minister? Or someone who failed high school science becomes the Minister for Science and Innovation? Or if the government's chief diplomat to Africa is a hardcore racist?

    The problem being that the majority of people are unsuitable to the majority of jobs, randomly assigning them is consequently a recipe for disaster.

    However a partial system may be beneficial. Personally I'm not opposed to the idea of a second house (e.g. House of Lords) chosen in a manner similar to jury duty with an option to decline.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2011
  21. Dec 16, 2011 #20


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    Google "A Modest Proposal" to see what he's getting at...
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