August 31st, 2016

Fixing America’s Elections: An Outsider’s Perspective

Back when I was in my first year of university, I took a political science course as one of my electives.  The content was split between two terms: the United States, and Africa.  I came out of the course amazed that the United States could govern itself at all – it was a system designed around preventing abuses of government power at all costs.  Any of the three branches of government – the Executive (the President), the Legislative (Congress and the Senate), and the Judicial (the higher courts) – could strike down the work of any of the others.  So if, for example, somebody manages to strong-man their way into the Presidency and corrupt one of the other branches, the third could serve as effective damage control.

This provides a lot of checks and balances, but it also (quite deliberately) makes the U.S. Government difficult to manage.  The idea was that the difficulty in getting anything done would force people to compromise, which in theory leads to a more just system built upon consensus.  As an unintended consequence, however, this also means that should any single branch of government become obstructionist, it could hold back the other two, and bring the business of governance to a screeching halt.

Flash forward to today, and the United States seems to be something of a mess right now when it comes to their most recent election.  Depending on where you stand, you could be looking at it as anything from a general breakdown in sanity to the impending doom of the Republican party to a desperate battle against socialist liberals.  Either way, as the election is being reported right now, the American system is looking badly broken.

In a lot of ways, this has come about because of over two centuries of people trying to find workarounds to get things done and otherwise game the system for their own ends.  Suggestions on how to fix it are not in small supply – even my little brother has thrown his own into the ring.  But all too many of them are dealing with the symptoms of the problem, while leaving the underlying issues untreated.  The American political system as it stands is fixable.  What follows are my suggestions, as a Canadian and an outsider, as to what might work.

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