Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Curing our democracy of afflictions | The winners of the midterm elections have yet to be sworn in, and the losers have yet to clear out their offices. Yet the news media already are filled with stories about the presidential race in 2004. There even has been speculation about a hypothetical 2008 contest between Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

The primary purpose of elections is to hold public officials to account. If they have performed well in office, they should be re-elected. If they have performed poorly, they should be turned out. But the news media tends to treat the formulation and execution of public policy as mere posturing for the next election campaign. This diminishes democracy, and is a danger to it.

Our democracy is the healthiest in the world, but it suffers from some severe afflictions. Election campaigns are endless, enormously expensive, and not particularly edifying. What I learned from the myriad political commercials I had to endure this fall is that every candidate for public office in Pennsylvania loves children and old people, and plans to increase spending on both, while cutting taxes and being "fiscally responsible." There apparently wasn't enough room in the 30 and 60 second spots to explain how all this could be done, or to provide voters with other information they might think pertinent, like, say, party affiliation.

One lesson we learned from the late substitutions of Frank Lautenberg for Robert Torricelli and of Walter Mondale for Paul Wellstone as U.S. senate candidates in New Jersey and Minnesota, respectively, is that long campaigns are necessary only to fatten the bank accounts of political consultants. Most of us can pick up on what we need to know about the candidates and their positions on the issues in considerably less than the nine months campaigns typically run.

The midterm elections didn't actually end until December 7, when Louisiana held a runoff election for U.S. Senate, and for several lesser offices. Media commentators treat the Louisiana system as a curious anomaly, but the other 49 states would profit from adopting it.

Democracy is thought to be synonymous with majority rule, but the only state where this is always true is Louisiana. Louisiana also is the state that provides the greatest opportunity for all points of view to be heard in an election campaign. Just about anyone, regardless of party affiliation or absence of it, can run in the general election. If any candidate gets a majority, he or she is declared elected. If no one gets 50 percent of the vote, there is a runoff between the top two finishers. This guarantees that the officeholder will be chosen by a majority of voters, even if the winner is the second or third choice of some.

Suppose all 50 states adopted the Louisiana system. Minor parties like the Greens and the Libertarians would have a better opportunity to present their views to the public. Voters would be more likely to vote their consciences in the general election, because they would know there is a high likelihood there would be a second opportunity to vote for the lesser of evils. Centrists would be more influential, since a plurality no longer would suffice for election.

Suppose we coupled a Louisiana system with shorter election campaigns. Suppose there were no campaigning before Labor Day, and the general election day was moved to the third Saturday in October. I'm not one who agonizes much about low voter turnout. I think democracy is strengthened, not weakened, when the ill-informed and poorly motivated stay home. But if we held elections on Saturdays, it would be easier for people who wished to vote to vote.

In those races in which no one won a majority, there would be a runoff on, say, the second Saturday in November. As in Louisiana now, there is no need for a lengthy runoff campaign, because voters would be pretty familiar with the candidates and the issues on which they were campaigning from the general election campaign.

Shorter campaigns. Greater popular voice. Majority rule. I suppose it is too much to hope for.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Jack Kelly's column by clicking here.

12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly