System Spawns Mediocre Candidates
BY JERRY EMANUEL
It's time we eliminated the electoral college and selected our presidents by popular vote.
When we go to the polls and pull the lever next to a candidate's name, we're not voting for the presidential candidate; we're voting for someone who, after the election is over, will cast a ballot for the candidate who polled the most votes. Of course the elector isn't obligated to cast a ballot for the winning candidate he can choose the loser. But if he does, he may have to move out of state, since there may be a lot of angry citizens forcing him to make that choice.
If we chose our presidents by popular vote, then I could open the write-in window on the voting machine and write the name of my choice for president even though his or her name isn't on the ballot. I tried doing that a few years ago, but the window wouldn't open when I pressed the button. That's because I was voting for an elector representing only those candidates whose name appeared on the ballot. I couldn't vote for the person I thought was the best choice because he wasn't the choice of the Republican, Democratic or Libertarian party.
That is why I think the political party system should also be abolished. I don't want to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate for president this year. I don't think either one has the credentials for the highest office in the land, but these are the choices being forced upon me by the political system. I want to vote for the person I believe would do the best job. I don't want to settle for second-best.
If I were hiring someone, I'd interview many people and choose the best qualified candidate. I'd be highly irritated if two groups each sent a candidate for the job and I was told to choose one of the two. That's what's happening on the national political scene.
To get to be the candidate of the political party, candidates of the same party have to duke it out in primaries. That means each candidate has to raise money to beat his opponents of the same party into submission. To do that, the candidates say negative things about each other, berate each other and explain what they want to do if elected. All this does is give the members of the other political party, who are also bashing each other, all their secrets and strategies for winning.
When the winning candidates are selected by each political party, the candidates must then raise more money to battle each other prior to the general election. The problem is that they have already exposed their strengths and weaknesses to each other during the primaries. This is like Gen. George Patton telling Field Marshal Erwin Rommel what the allies were going to do at El Alamein. This seems counter-productive to me.
If we chose our presidents by popular vote, candidates would be able to say what's really on their mind, such as "lift the embargo on Cuba," without having to worry about Florida's Cuban-American population and that state's 25 electoral votes.
Elimination of the electoral college also means eliminating the state primaries and a return to the selection of a candidate at the national convention. The primary system eliminates the suspense and drama of who's going to be selected to run.
For example, at the Republican convention in 1956, there was a move to dump Richard Nixon as vice-president. At the Democratic convention that year, Sen. John F. Kennedy lost his bid to be the vice-presidential candidate as Sen. Estes Kefauver was selected to be Adlai Stevenson's veep. That's drama, intrigue and excitement. It also seemed to produce better leaders from each party, those truly qualified to lead the country.
So let's eliminate the current system which seems to spawn mediocre candidates and return to the thrilling days of yesteryear where suspense ruled. After all, I'm still waiting to vote for the best candidate instead of the least-worst.
Jerry Emanuel is former reporter/sports director at WOLO-TV in Columbia. He ran for Richland County Council in 1992.