|No good choice here.|
The world's a mess right now. People go back and forth on whether the United States is the source of the problems, but all can agree that our country is not contributing solutions at the moment.
Back at home, the presidential election offers a sham choice between an emotion-driven, narcissistic man-child and a crook known for poor judgment and a bone-deep disinclination to play by the rules.
Unfortunately, one of these people is going to win. For the next four years, the country will be in damage-control mode.
Instead of lamenting our fate, I think we should spend our time making lemonade.
I have two proposals -- one to limit the damage over the short term and one to make sure we never find ourselves in this awful position again.
Let's ignore the inauguration. Also the 2017 State of the Union address. All of us.
The next president is not going to be given a mandate. That point needs to be pounded home again and again to the new office-holder.
No signature legislation. No big new programs. No major tax cuts. No new Supreme Court justices. Nothing. Nada. If the president wishes to undertake improvements in the efficiency of the federal government and to make reductions in the size of its larded bureaucracy, such efforts may be a good use of her or his time.
If an emergency arises, I suppose we should expect Congressional leaders and the president to confer and agree on appropriate, limited action. It's unfortunate to leave important matters to such a collection of dunderheads, but I don't see any way around it. It goes without saying that "emergency" should be defined quite narrowly.
It also would be nice if, during this period, Washington's many lobbyists found that their advice -- and money -- were not sought, and if the lobbying firms, law firms, press bureaus and other D.C. hangers-on were to shutter their offices. Mostly, the nation's capital should be empty and quiet. I'm picturing tumbleweed blowing across the national mall.
Freed from the chore of addressing matters of state (and causing more damage), the president should consider taking up a hobby. Winston Churchill was a pretty good painter, for example. Our next president will not possess Churchillian wisdom, of course, but there's no harm in trying to emulate a person of good character.
Honorable people naturally will decline invitations to state dinners and other presidential events. Those who wish may attend such functions, but they should expect to be shunned by at least some of their fellow citizens.
2. Fix the Elections
Let's adopt a 28th Amendment to the Constitution with regard to presidential elections. My proposal is this, but I am happy to consider other ideas.
A. Every state's ballot shall include the option to vote for "None of the Above."
B. If "None of the Above" wins the popular vote (plurality, not majority; I don't want
to involve the Electoral College here), the election shall be declared a failure.
C. Political parties shall have two weeks to name new presidential and vice presidential
candidates. (The previous candidates shall be ineligible.)
D. The parties shall have three weeks to campaign and hold debates.
E. On the Tuesday following the third week, a second presidential election shall be held.
All traditional electoral arrangements shall apply.
The reasoning here is simple: American voters should not have to choose the "least bad" candidate. The country is full of bright, accomplished people with distinguished records. We can do better than we have this year.
As citizens, we are responsible for this terrible situation. Over the next four years, it would behoove us to learn the nature of our government: the roles of its three branches, the purpose and function of checks and balances, etc. Perhaps we could set up civic groups in our communities to study and understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to offer classes in American history.
We all should acknowledge with humility and regret this awful choice we have prepared for ourselves. Going forward, we should be modest about our political beliefs, and we should practice listening to others who do not share our views.