The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Penny

I was at a dinner gathering over this past weekend. A life-long Democrat, after lambasting Donald Trump as a buffoon, Ted Cruz as a "dangerous reactionary," Hillary Clinton as a "liar," and Bernie Sanders as a "nut," asked a heart-felt question:

"Why is it," she asked, "that we can't find any decent candidates on either side of the political spectrum. Why don't we have any  good people running this year?"

My response drew nods from the mostly liberal attendees.

"Our political process sucks ... it needs to be reformed," I said, and then paused as a thought occurred to me. I followed with, "Then again, we're a country that can't decommission the penny. There's no way in hell that we can reform our political process."

And there's the rub. Our political process for electing our leaders is broken. It is an anachronism—a painfully long slog ending with a ridiculous convention spectacle that discourages the best and brightest from participating. It is an artifact of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries that has become a cruel joke in the 21st century. It should be jettisoned in total and replaced with a much streamlined, information-driven system for selecting a party's nominee (no more than one month long), and then a streamlined and information-driven system for selecting the President of the United States (no more than three months long). It should outlaw 30 second negative ads and discourage the idiotic TV "debates" that provide theatrics but no ability (in 90 second responses) to understand a candidate's true positions.

It should provide standardized, structured on-line sources of information that contrast and compare each candidate's domestic and foreign policy positions in tight, brief, well-formed statements. These structured, on line sources should select 20 topics that Americans rate as important (e.g., jobs, national debt, Islamic terror, immigration, government role in our lives) and demand summary statement followed by in-depth policy statements on each from candidates. High-information voters will take the time to study this information. And low information voters? They can be encouraged to learn a little more about the problems our nation faces (possibly with incentives) and how the candidates might address those problems.

Can this be done. Sure! We have the technology, but we don't have the political will or more importantly, the political intent.  Politicians love low information elections—theatrics reign supreme and as a result we get bad candidates and worse, bad leaders.

Will this change? Let me repeat ... "We're a country that can't decommission the penny. There's no way in hell that we can reform our political process."