Cancel the Midterms

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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50 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    TRUMP GETS THE PRESIDENCY AND PEOPLE ARE ALREADY CALLING FOR CANCELLING ELECTIONS

    ALL HAIL TRUMP!

    TRUMP IS LIFE!Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    And people has the stones to claim the media has no bias…..Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      Seems odd to call a professor of public policy at Duke “the media”.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        I was referring to DAVID SCHANZER and JAY SULLIVAN, who wrote the piece in the Times.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          From the fishin’ article.

          David Schanzer is a professor of public policy and Jay Sullivan is a junior at Duke.

          Hence my question, since when is a professor of public policy and a college junior “the media”.

          Op eds from outside parties do not necessarily reflect the paper’s editorial beliefs. They’ve published John Yoo, for example.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        It’s odd to call a junior at Duke “published in the New York Times”Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I agree. We are never going to turn America into a Parliamentary democracy but we can take steps to move the United States closer to it. One essential step is having the House of Representatives last for four years rather than two. Two years isn’t long enough of a term for Representatives to really get their bearings in the modern political environment. By the time they get elected, they have to start fund-raising for the next election again.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Do we really need the elections in years that are divisible by 4 but not by 8? Imagine how much more presidents could accomplish if they didn’t feel like they had to get re-elected lest they be viewed as historical failures the way we look at HW and Carter.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Yes. Four years gives them enough time to learn the ropes and actually legislate without the help of lobbyists. Eight years is too long.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Lee,
          Okay, give me a cost/benefit analysis on backup cameras for cars.
          No, seriously. Pull me the numbers. I can wait.

          Now, understand, that’s a simple CBA. Not planning a fledgling industry rollout. Not doing a cost/benefit for spending money on rural roads versus city gondolas.

          Lobbyists exist for a lot of reasons, some of which is simply because it’s a hell of a lot of stuff. Four years is not enough time to legislate without the help of lobbyists. I’m not sure any time is, particularly when you’re trying to jumpstart businesses.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            Okay, give me a cost/benefit analysis on backup cameras for cars.
            No, seriously.

            Just broke out in cold sweats with flashbacks to hazing night at Public Policy Band Camp in the last century.

            Though rhetorically I’m intrigued… sort of, “I’ll answer your question, but not until I see a position paper on Angolan linkage on the Tripartite accord.” Though ’round these parts, I’d probably get it. *sigh*Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        I do believe that the two-term limit has an adverse effect on the presidency. Everyone conducts his first term trying to win a second, and coasts afterwards. Everyone’s afraid of being a Carter. Actually, you can see it before Carter, in Nixon’s compulsion to prove himself by winning a landslide the second time.

        As for the NYT piece, it reads like an endorsement of midterms, that is if you prefer gridlock over an increasingly powerful presidency.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I would be fine with a single 6 year term for presidents.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          This is what the Mexicans do. On balance, it hasn’t worked.Report

          • Avatar Don Zeko says:

            Also the Confederate States of America!Report

            • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

              Only in the final constitution, not in the provisional one.

              But you really should cut the CSA some slack – they were so busy rebelling over the existential issue of tariff levels* that the occasional constitutional glitch(es) regarding presidential terms, line item veto (Article I, Section 7(2)), and the occasional minor asides regarding slavery are hardly consequential.

              *Yes, I have had someone tell me this, FTF and in evident sincerity. Cue Rod Serling.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                The CSA also didn’t acquire enough history to test the efficacy of a single six-year term.Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                Yep, and a Very Good Thing too, for reasons having nothing to do with the value of two 4-year terms versus one 6-year term for the Prez.

                Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another presidential republic other than Mexio with a single term limit. Kolohe mentions that “On balance, it hasn’t worked”. I’m not sure there’s been enough stick time on Mexico as a country with more or less genuinely competitive presidential elections (since 2000) to say that it hasn’t worked there.

                I do think the single term limit, along with norms internal to the PRI of both el dedazo and the alternating between the internal left and right factions allowed to the PRI to maintain a reasonably functional one party state for a surprisingly long time. I’m not sure if that’s an argument for or against a single term presidency.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                It’s the fact that every prez was looting everything he could towards the end of PRI’s dominant run is the ‘doesn’t work’ side of the equation. Since PAN broke the monopoly, the corruption at the top has been a bit more manageable (though the corruption at the state level in certain states has gotten far, far worse)Report

              • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

                Yeahbut would say a four year Presidential term with a two term limit (two terms limit seems to be both mode and median internationally) have made that much difference to Mexico vis a vis looting?

                Relevant to your point about state level corruption, it seems to be the norm that Mexican state governors have single six year terms too (IDK if that’s universal – it’s true of the larger states at least), although:

                1) Governorships, or at least some governorships seem to be rather more competitive between parties over a longer period (cf the PAN’s redoubt in Baja Sur).

                2) I don’t know what factors correlate with greater intensity of state level corruption. I’d guess relative poverty, weakness of non-PRI actors, relative power of the cartels in the state in question.

                Do you happen to know?Report

          • Avatar Mo says:

            Though presidential systems haven’t worked in the vast majority of cases, especially as compared to parliamentary systems.Report

            • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

              I think you are conflating a whole lot of variables there, e.g. the tendency of ex-colonies (where the colonial power was not the UK) to have presidential systems, whereas the parliamentary republics/monarchies tend to be more first world.

              The only country I can think of offhand that has switched in either direction between parliamentary and presidential, absent a really major war or revolution, is France (parliamentary IVth Rep, semi-presidential Vth). All in all I think the move was an improvement.

              The data set is small and short for ex-WP countries – perhaps we could compare Latvia (standard model parliamentary) with Lithuania (semi-presidential, fairly similar to France).

              There are probably some cases of otherwise vaguely similar colonies where one went presidential and the other parliamentary, but I can’t think of one at the moment.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    The realities of the modern election cycle are that we spend almost two years selecting a president with a well-developed agenda, but then, less than two years after the inauguration, the midterm election cripples that same president’s ability to advance that agenda.

    Objection. Assumes facts not in evidence. A lot of facts.

    First, it assumes that the President who has spent nearly two years campaigning has a “well-developed agenda” upon assuming office. The current President-elect can still only frame a policy agenda in gross generalities, and has dialed back such policy agenda as we citizens can see from his campaign rhetoric significantly.

    Second, it assumes that the President’s party will necessarily lose seats in Congress during midterm elections. This happens often, true, but not always. I rather doubt it will be true in 2018, for instance. The GOP’s 2012 gerrymandering of Congressional districts, which produces a more Republican house than the popular vote would indicate, will still be in full effect through the 2020 elections. A large number of Senate seats up for election are “safe Republican.”

    Third, it assumes that a loss of ground in the President’s party’s standing during midterm elections is a bug, not a feature. Yet the American Constitutional system is created precisely with institutional pressures embedded into the structure of the government so as to force different factions to compromise and seek out a middle ground with one another. Strengthening a minority party is consistent with, not opposed to, the fundamental philosophy of our government.

    Fourth, in particular after an election in which both sides raised spectres that the opposing candidate was literally a fascist, cancelling elections would be hugely detrimental to the need on the part of our leaders to inspire confidence in our system of government and the legitimacy of the laws it produces. It’s a shame that we even have to address that issue at all, but we do.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      The Third premise needs some revision. It hasn’t been happening much recently.Report

      • Avatar Don Zeko says:

        We can’t fix a political culture that abhors deal making and compromise by changing our constitutional system without basically rebuilding from the ground up as a parliamentary system. What we need is for the GOP, and to a lesser extent the Dems, to behave differently.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      Third, it assumes that a loss of ground in the President’s party’s standing during midterm elections is a bug, not a feature. Yet the American Constitutional system is created precisely with institutional pressures embedded into the structure of the government so as to force different factions to compromise and seek out a middle ground with one another. Strengthening a minority party is consistent with, not opposed to, the fundamental philosophy of our government.

      This, so much this.

      The whole point is so that the President cannot accrue too much power, unless the populus directly approves off it, hence the short timeframe. Congress has only one job really, saying Yeah or Nah to the Pres. actions. “Learning” the job is just politicking. Also, it forces the political parties to not forget to whom they are responsible, in that the boundaries of districts are set at the state levelReport

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    The main impact of the midterm election in the modern era has been to weaken the president, the only government official (other than the powerless vice president) elected by the entire nation

    The idea that the modern President is too weak is the worst premise ever.Report

    • Avatar Aaron David says:

      I would say that anything that weakens the presidency is good. And in fact is the main reasons for our system.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      Thanks. I was wondering how long it was going to take for someone to feature/bug that bit.

      What I’m wondering is if that dynamic hasn’t actually served to strengthen the Presidency over time by… not forcing perhaps, but at least encouraging… the President to seek out and find ways to circumvent, albeit temporarily, a recalcitrant Congress?Report

    • Avatar trizzlor says:

      I would like to see a restriction of the presidents foreign powers that goes hand-in-hand with an expansion of domestic powers. It seems to me that the current system where Congress obstructs the president in appointments leading to dysfunctional departments but then gives him free reign over bombing runs has it precisely backwards. I also see very little evidence that domestic gridlock leads in the direction that libertarian supporters of gridlock want; when bureaucracies are mismanaged they tend towards disfunction rather than non-function.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        You have no idea how much I’d love for the War Powers Act to be repealed.

        I guess I’ll have to wait for a Democrat to get elected president before I can start daydreaming about that, though.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Do you mean repeal and replace? The War Powers act is something that ostensibly limits the President’s power. (without it, the President can send troops and bombs hither and yon indefinitely, and just go “Yo, I’m the CinC, whatsyagonnadoaboutit?”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Huh. I was under the impression that “war” would need to be declared for the preznit to do something like that… and without a war being declared, he wouldn’t have the power to make that happen.

            So I’d want for the system I imagine existed prior to the WPA to be installed.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              WPA was installed because the President could and did run open ended military operations in Korea, Vietnam, and the last straw, Cambodia, without Congress ever declaring war.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                This open-ended military operation bullshit needs to come to an end.

                If The People (through their representatives) aren’t willing to declare war, then all the president should be able to do is write a letter of marque.

                I’d also like a pony.Report

            • Avatar PD Shaw says:

              The WPA was passed to try to regulate Presidential war powers claimed since the first undeclared war in 1798. It authorizes any war the President desires for a period of sixty days, with the hope that after sixty days the President would be nice enough to ask.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        trizzlor: It seems to me that the current system where Congress obstructs the president in appointments leading to dysfunctional departments

        I’m not too worried about executive branch appointments; the bureaucracy can run itself, for the most part. (especially with all the SES burrowing that’s happened over the last twenty years).

        I *am* worried about the slow rolling judicial appointments and its general understaffing level (nothing to do with SCOTUS). As a co-equal and separate branch, it needs to be operating at full capacity.

        The untenable manifestation of he political dysfunction on the executive bureaucracy is in all the Continuing Resolutions. Management recommendations to move around money from one program area to another, where the money be more effective and/or not completely wasted – those recommendations are completely pointless, because the budgets are frozen (both up and down) for years at a time.Report

  6. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    So, change the Congress Terms to 4-years and have those elections off-set from the presidential elections by two years. Senate terms bounce between Presidential cycles and Congressional cycles.

    Seems even more coherent than what we have… we vote for the Executive every 4-years and we vote for most of the Legislature every 4 years. Two different functions, two different sets of arguments we should be having.

    Since the Senate is special by design, we keep them out of synch to provide ballast against short term fads.

    That would make the two elections about two different things.

    Or is the intent really to try to align elections with one team’s perceived advantage in certain cycles?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Or is the intent really to try to align elections with one team’s perceived advantage in certain cycles?

      I’m always more suspicious of “we ought to change the way we do things in elections” articles that show up in the Novembers of presidential election years than in the Aprils and Mays of the crappy years nobody cares about.

      I know, I know. The incentives are to write them when people are paying the most attention.

      But still.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        My guess is that both of these guys do genuinely believe their argument, and believe it still.

        I think the NYT ran the piece in part due to the particulars, though. And at least some of the people who nodded along and forwarded it might feel differently now than they did then.

        In any event, @marchmaine these arguments almost always come bundled with the notion that it’s important that presidential and congressional elections occur simultaneously. one of the primary arguments being the problem of different electorates and such. So your idea is almost certainly a no-go.

        Personally, I like two-year-terms and would prefer to keep them. I am less insistent on senate terms and can make arguments for four or eight year terms. I’d really like us to have elections run in fifty states so that how a party does in the mid-terms is not dependent on which states are scheduled that year.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I’d really like us to have elections run in fifty states so that how a party does in the mid-terms is not dependent on which states are scheduled that year.

          The 17th was a kludge. Now we’re kludging a kludge.

          Once we start kludging that, we may wish to explore the whole “maybe the first kludge was a bad idea” thing.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            The only thing worse than the current Senate is a Senate elected by state representatives in gerrymandered small turnout off year elections.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          *shrug* Then I’m just fundamentally opposed to the idea that we should make all elections subject to the same electoral winds.

          It would seem that one could argue 2-year congressional cycles allow for little else than campaigning… so there a good-governance angle to make for 4-year cycles.

          But yeah, I’m still suspicious of the motivations.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Pretty much.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        You could’ve asked me in May of last year, July of 2014, October of 2013, August of 2011, October of 2008, or June of 2006, and I would’ve given you the same answer. Off year elections higher than the local level are pretty dumb – for instance, on an international level, it probably doesn’t help that EU elections always happened during off years and had very low turnout, so people suddenly found out they were “represented” by people they’ve never heard of.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “Mr. President, if the people don’t like how we govern, we’ll lose seats in the mid-terms.”
    “Well, the answer is obvious.”
    “I’ll talk with Congressional Leader…”
    “Cancel the mid-terms.”
    “Wait… what?”
    “You heard me.”
    “But, sir…”
    “Release the hounds.”

    2016 politics makes more sense if you imagine your enemy as Mr. Burns.Report